Ajaan Lee Dhammadharo
Translated from the Thai by
Metta Forest Monastery
PO Box 1409
Valley Center, CA 92082
Transcription & Formatting: John Bullitt
Proofreading: Thanissaro Bhikkhu
* * *
This work may be freely copied, printed, and redistributed
provided it is offered free of any charge.
Otherwise, all rights reserved.
* * *
DharmaNet Edition 1995
This electronic edition is offered for free distribution
via DharmaNet by arrangement with the translator.
P.O. Box 4951, Berkeley CA 94704-4951
* * * * * * * *
There are two things beginning meditators should search for as
external aids to their practice --
1. Suitable companions (//puggala-sappaya//): Be discriminating in
choosing people to associate with. Search only for companions who
have peace of mind. This can be any group at all, as long as the
group as a whole is aiming for mental peace.
2. A suitable location (//senasana-sappaya//): Choose a quiet
place with an agreeable atmosphere, far from human society. Places of
this sort, providing physical seclusion, are conducive to the practice
of meditation. Examples listed in the Canon include caverns and
caves, the shade of an over-hanging cliff-face, the forest wilderness,
and empty houses or buildings where not too many people will come
passing by. Places like this are an excellent aid and support for a
When you go to stay in such a place, don't let your thoughts dwell
on topics that will act as enemies to your peace of mind. For
example, don't preoccupy yourself with magic spells or the black arts.
Instead, call to mind and put into practice those principles and
qualities that will be to your benefit. For example --
//Appicchata//: Be a person of few wants with regard to the
necessities of life.
//Santutthi//: Be content with the possessions you already have.
//Viveka//: Aim solely for peace, quiet and seclusion.
//Asansagga//: Don't entangle yourself with human companionship.
//Viriyarambha//: Be singleminded and persistent at making the mind
still and at peace.
//Silanussati//: Reflect on your own conduct to see if you've
overstepped any of your precepts, and -- if you have -- immediately
purify your behavior through your own intention.
//Samadhi-katha//: Focus on calling to mind the meditation theme on
which your mind can become firmly established.
//Panna-katha//: Focus exclusively on those topics that will give
rise to discernment and clear insight.
//Vimutti//: Make the mind well-disposed toward the search for
release from all defilements.
//Vimutti-nana-dassana//: Focus on contemplating how to come to the
realizations that will enable you to gain release from the
fermentation of all defilements.
These principles are guidelines for meditators of every sort and
will direct the mind solely to the path leading beyond all suffering
What follows is a short-hand list of essential principles, selected
to help prevent meditators from getting tied up in the course of their
practice. These principles, though, should be viewed merely as
incidental to the Dhamma. The reality of the Dhamma has to be brought
into being within ourselves through our own energies: This is called
practicing the Dhamma. If we go no further than the lists, we'll end
up with only concepts of the Dhamma. Our ultimate aim should be to
make the mind still until we reach the natural reality that exists on
its own within us, that knows on its own and lets go on its own. This
is the practice of the Dhamma that will lead us to the realization of
the Dhamma -- the true taste and nourishment of the Dhamma -- so that
we will no longer be caught up on the ropes.
In other words, conceptualized Dhamma is like a rope bridge for
crossing over a river. If we take the bridge down and then carry it
with us, it will serve no purpose other than to weigh us down and get
us all tied up. So no matter how much conceptualized Dhamma you may
have memorized, when you come to the point where you're practicing for
real you have to take responsibility for yourself. Whether you are to
win or lose, let go or cling, will depend on how much quality you've
built into your own mind. This is why we are taught not to cling to
the scriptures and texts, to meanings and concepts. Only when we
train ourselves to get beyond all this will we be heading for purity.
//Attahi attano natho//:
Nothing can help us unless we can rely on ourselves. Only when we
realize this will we be on the right track. The Buddha attained all
of the truths he taught before he put them into words. It wasn't the
case that came up with the words first and then put them into practice
later. He was like the scientists who experiment and get results
before writing textbooks. But people who simply read the textbooks
know everything -- for example, they may know every part in an
airplane -- but they can't produce one out of their own knowledge. To
be a consumer and to be a producer are two different things. If we
cling merely to the concepts of the Dhamma, simply memorizing them,
we're no more than consumers. Only if we make ourselves into
producers, so that others can consume, will we be acting properly.
To be successful producers, we have to accept responsibility for
ourselves. If there's any area where we don't succeed, we should make
use of our own ingenuity until we do. If we rely merely on the
ingenuity of others, then we can't depend on ourselves. And if we
can't depend on ourselves, why should we let other people think that
they can depend on us?
This is why I have compiled this list of principles merely as a
brief beginning guide for meditators.
The Thirteen Ascetic Observances
1. //Pansukulikanga//: the practice of wearing robes made from
2. //Tecivarikanga//: the practice of using only one set of three
3. //Pindapatikanga//: the practice of going for alms.
4. //Sapadacarikanga//: the practice of not by-passing any donors on
one's alms path.
5. //Ekasanikanga//: the practice of eating no more than one meal a
6. //Pattapindikanga//: the practice of eating one's food only from
7. //Khalupacchabhattikanga//: the practice of not accepting any
food presented after one has eaten one's fill.
8. //Arannikanga//: the practice of living in the wilderness.
9. //Rukkhamulikanga//: the practice of living under the shade of a
10. //Abbhokasikanga//: the practice of living out under the open
11. //Sosanikanga//: the practice of living in a cemetery.
12. //Yathasanthatikanga//: the practice of living in whatever place
is assigned to one.
13. //Nesajjikanga//: the practice of not lying down.
The Fourteen Duties
1. //Akantuka-vatta//: duties of a monk newly arriving at a
2. //Avasika-vatta//: duties of a host-monk when a newcomer arrives.
3. //Gamika-vatta//: duties of a monk when leaving a monastery.
4. //Anumodana-vatta//: duties connected with expressing
appreciation for donations (of food).
5. //Bhattaka-vatta//: duties to observe before and after one's meal.
6. //Pindicarika-vatta//: duties to observe when going for alms.
7. //Arannika-vatta//: duties to observe when living in the
8. //Senasana-vatta//: duties to observe in looking after one's
9. //Jantaghara-vatta//: duties to observe in using the fire-house.
10. //Vaccakuti-vatta//: duties to observe in using the toilet.
11. //Upajjhaya-vatta//: duties to observe in attending to one's
12. //Acariya-vatta//: duties to observe in attending to one's
13. //Saddhiviharika-vatta//: a preceptor's duties toward his pupil.
14. //Antevasika-vatta//: a teacher's duties toward his pupil.
Seven Important Sets of Principles (The Wings to Awakening)
1. The four frames of reference (//satipatthana//): body, feelings,
mind, mental qualities.
2. The four right exertions (//sammappadhana//): making the effort
to prevent evil from arising, to abandon whatever evil has arisen, to
give rise to the good that hasn't yet arisen, and to maintain the good
3. The four foundations of achievement (//iddhipada//):
//Chanda// -- feeling an affinity for one's meditation theme.
//Viriya// -- persistence.
//Citta// -- intentness on one's goal.
//Vimangsa// -- circumspection in one's activities and interests.
4. The five pre-eminent factors (//indriya//): conviction,
persistence, mindfulness, concentration, discernment (factors that are
pre-eminent in performing one's duties).
5. The five strengths (//bala//): conviction, persistence
mindfulness, concentration, discernment (factors that give energy to
the observance of one's duties).
6. The seven factors of Awakening (//bojjhanga//):
//Sati-sambojjhanga -- powers of mindfulness, recollection, and
//Dhammavicaya-sambojjhanga// -- discrimination in choosing a
meditation theme well-suited to oneself.
//Viriya-sambojjhanga// -- persistence.
//Piti-sambojjhanga// -- rapture; fullness of body and mind.
//Passaddhi-sambojjhanga// -- physical stillness and mental
//Samadhi-sambojjhanga// -- concentration.
//Upekkha-sambojjhanga// -- equanimity.
7. The eightfold path (//magga//):
//Samma-ditthi// -- Right View.
//Samma-sankappa// -- Right Intention.
//Samma-vaca// -- Right Speech.
//Samma-kammanta// -- Right Action.
//Samma-ajiva// -- Right Livelihood.
//Samma-vayama// -- Right Effort.
//Samma-sati// -- Right Mindfulness.
//Samma-samadhi// -- Right Concentration.
The Forty Meditation Themes
Ten recollections; ten foul objects; ten kasinas; four divine
abidings; four formless absorptions; one resolution into elements; and
one perception of the filthiness of food.
1. //Buddhanussati//: recollection of the virtues of the Buddha.
2. //Dhammanussati//: recollection of the virtues of the Dhamma.
3. //Sanghanussati//: recollection of the virtues of the Sangha.
4. //Silanussati//: recollection of one's own moral virtue.
5. //Caganussati//: recollection of one's generosity.
6. //Devatanussati//: recollection of the qualities that lead to
rebirth as a heavenly being.
7. //Kayagatasati//: mindfulness immersed in the body.
8. //Maranassati//: mindfulness of death.
9. //Anapanassati//: mindfulness of breathing.
10. //Upasamanussati//: recollection of the virtues of nibbana --
ultimate pleasure; unexcelled ease, free from birth, aging,
illness and death.
Ten foul objects:
1. //Uddhumataka//: a rotten, bloated corpse, its body all swollen
and its features distended out of shape.
2. //Vinilaka//: a livid corpse, with patchy discoloration --
greenish, reddish, yellowish -- from the decomposition of the
3. //Vipubbaka//: a festering corpse, oozing lymph and pus from its
4. //Vichiddaka//: a corpse falling apart, the pieces scattered
about, radiating their stench.
5. //Vikkhayittaka//: a corpse that various animals, such as dogs,
are gnawing, or that vultures are picking at, or that crows are
fighting over, pulling it apart in different directions.
6. //Vikkhittaka//: corpses scattered about, i.e., unclaimed bodies
that have been thrown together in a pile -- face up, face down,
old bones and new scattered all over the place.
7. //Hatavikkhittaka//: the corpse of a person violently murdered,
slashed and stabbed with various weapons, covered with wounds --
short, long, shallow, deep -- some parts hacked so that they're
8. //Lohitaka//: a corpse covered with blood, like the hands of a
butcher, all red and raw-smelling.
9. //Puluvaka//: a corpse infested with worms: long worms, short
worms, black, green, and yellow worms, squeezed into the ears,
eyes, and mouth; squirming and squiggling about, filling the
various parts of the body like a net full of fish that has
10. //Atthika//: a skeleton, some of the joints already separated,
others not yet, the bones -- whitish, yellowish, discolored --
scattered near and far all over the place.
1. //Pathavi kasina//: staring at earth.
2. //Apo kasina//: staring at water.
3. //Tejo kasina//: staring at fire.
4. //Vayo kasina//: staring at wind.
5. //Odata kasina//: staring at white.
6. //Pita kasina//: staring at yellow.
7. //Lohita kasina//: staring at red.
8. //Nila kasina//: staring at blue (or green).
9. //Akasa kasina//: staring at the space in a hole or an opening.
10. //Aloka kasina//: staring at bright light.
Four divine abidings:
1. //Metta//: benevolence, friendliness, good will, love in the true
2. //Karuna//: compassion, sympathy, pity, aspiring to find a way to
be truly helpful.
3. //Mudita//: appreciation for the goodness of other people and for
our own when we are able to help them.
4. //Upekkha//: When our efforts to be of help don't succeed, we
should make the mind neutral -- neither pleased nor upset by
whatever it focuses on -- so that it enters the emptiness of
jhana, centered and tranquil to the point where it can disregard
acts of thinking and evaluating as well as feelings of rapture
and ease, leaving only oneness and equanimity with regard to all
objects and preoccupations.
Four formless absorptions:
1. //Akasanancayatana//: being absorbed in a sense of boundless
emptiness and space as one's preoccupation.
2. //Vinnanancayatana//: being absorbed in boundless consciousness
as one's preoccupation, with no form or figure acting as the
sign or focal point of one's concentration.
3. //Akincannayatana//: focusing exclusively on a fainter or more
subtle sense of cognizance that has no limit and in which
nothing appears or disappears, to the point where one almost
understands it to be //nibbana//.
4. //Nevasanna-nasannayatana//: being absorbed in a feeling that
occurs in the mind, that isn't awareness exactly, but neither is
it non-awareness; i.e., there is awareness, but with no
thinking, no focusing of awareness on what it knows.
These four formless absorptions are merely resting places for the
mind, because they are states that the mind enters, stays in, and
leaves. They are by nature unstable and inconstant, so we shouldn't
rest content simply at this level. We have to go back and forth
through the various levels many times so as to realize that they're
only stages of enforced tranquility.
One resolution into elements: i.e., regarding each part of the body
simply in terms of physical properties or elements.
One perception of the filthiness of food: i.e., viewing food as
something repugnant and unclean -- with regard to where it comes from,
how it's prepared, how it's mixed together when it's chewed, and where
it stays in the stomach and intestines.
* * *
With one exception, all of the meditation themes mentioned here are
simply //gocara dhamma// -- foraging places for the mind. They're not
places for the mind to stay. If we try to go live in the things we
see when we're out foraging, we'll end up in trouble. Thus, there is
one theme that's termed '//vihara dhamma//' or '//anagocara//': Once
you've developed it, you can use it as a place to stay. When you
practice meditation, you don't have to go foraging in other themes;
you can stay in the single theme that's the apex of all meditation
themes: //anapanassati//, keeping the breath in mind. This theme,
unlike the others, has none of the features or various deceptions that
can upset or disturb the heart. As for the others:
-- Some of the recollections, when you've practiced them for a
long time, can give rise to startling or unsettling visions.
-- The ten foul objects can give rise after a while to visions
and sometimes to sense of alienation and discontent that turns into
restlessness and distress, your mind being unable to fashion anything
on which it can come to rest, to the point where you can't eat or
-- The ten kasina, after you've stared at them a long while, can
give rise to visions that tend to pull you out of your sense of the
body, as you become enthralled by their color and features, to the
point where you may become completely carried away.
-- As for the resolution into elements, when you become more and
more engrossed in contemplating the elements, everything in the world
becomes nothing more than elements, which are everywhere the same. You
come to believe that you no longer have to make distinctions: You're
nothing more than elements, members of the opposite sex are nothing
more than elements, food is nothing more than elements, and so you can
end up overstepping the bounds of morality and the monastic
-- As for the perception of the filthiness of food, as you
become more and more caught up in it, everything becomes repulsive.
You can't eat or sleep, your mind becomes restless and disturbed, and
you inflict suffering on yourself.
-- As for the four divine abodes, if you don't have jhana as a
dwelling for the mind, feelings of good will, compassion, and
appreciation can all cause you to suffer. Only if you have jhana can
these qualities truly become divine abodes, that is, restful places
for the heart to stay (//vihara dhamma//).
Thus only one of these themes -- anapanassati, keeping the breath in
mind -- is truly safe. This is the supreme meditation theme. You
don't have to send your awareness out to fix it on any outside objects
at all. Even if you may go foraging through such objects, don't go
living in them, because after a while they can waver and shift, just
as when we cross the sea in a boat: When we first get into the boat
we may feel all right, but as soon as the boat heads out into the open
bay and we're buffeted by wind and waves, we can start feeling
seasick. To practice keeping the breath in mind, though, is like
sitting in an open shelter at dockside: We won't feel queasy or sick;
we can see boats as they pass by on the water, and people as they pass
by on land. Thus, keeping the breath in mind is classed:
-- as an exercise agreeable to people of any and every
-- as '//anagocara//,' an exercise in which you focus
exclusively on the breath while you sit in meditation, without having
to compound things by sending your awareness out to grab this or get
hold of that;
-- and as '//dhamma-thiti//,' i.e., all you have to do is keep
your mind established firm and in place.
The beginning stage is to think //buddho// -- '//bud-//' with the
in-breath, and '//dho//' with the out. Fixing your attention on just
this much is enough to start seeing results. There's only one aim,
that you really do it.
If there is anything you're unsure of, or if you encounter any
problems, then consult the following pages.
* * * * * * * *
This handbook on keeping the breath in mind has had a number of
readers who have put it into practice and seen results appearing
within themselves in accordance with the strength of their practice.
Many people have come to me to discuss the results they've gained from
practicing the principles in this book, but now it's out of print. For
this reason I've decided to enlarge it and have it printed again as an
aid for those who are interested in the practice.
Now, if you're not acquainted with this topic, have never attempted
it, or aren't yet skilled -- if you don't know the techniques of the
practice -- it's bound to be hard to understand, because the currents
of the mind, when they're written down as a book, simply won't be a
book. The issues involved in dealing with the mind are more than
many. If your knowledge of them isn't truly comprehensive, you may
misunderstand what you come to see and know, and this in turn can be
destructive in many ways. (1) You may lose whatever respect you had
for the practice, deciding that there's no truth to it. (2) You may
gain only a partial grasp of things, leading you to decide that other
people can't practice or are practicing wrongly, and in the end you're
left with no way to practice yourself. So you decide to 'let go'
simply through conjecture and speculation. But the truth is that this
simply won't work. True and complete letting go can come only from
the principles well-taught by the Buddha: virtue, concentration, and
discernment, which are a synopsis of the eightfold path he taught in
his first sermon.
So in our practice we should consider how virtue, concentration,
discernment, and release can be brought into being. Virtue forms the
basis for concentration; concentration, the basis for discernment
(liberating insight or cognitive skill); and discernment, the basis
for release from ignorance, craving, and attachment. Thus in this
book, which is a guide to developing Right Concentration, I would like
to recommend to other meditators a method that, in my experience, has
proven safe and productive, so that they can test it for themselves by
putting it into practice until they start seeing results.
The main concern of this book is with the way to mental peace. Now,
the word 'peace' has many levels: A mind infused with virtue has one
level of peace and happiness; a mind stilled through concentration has
another level of peace and happiness; a mind at peace through the
power of discernment has still another level of happiness; and the
peace of a mind that is release is yet another level, with a happiness
completely apart from the rest.
In these matters, though, meditators tend to prefer the results to
the causes. They aren't as interested in abandoning their own
defilements through the principles of the practice as they are in
standing out among society at large. They appropriate the ideas and
observations of other people as being their own, but by and large
their wisdom is composed of //bahira panna// -- remembered
'outsights', not true insight.
So when you want the reality of the principles taught by the Buddha,
you should first lift your mind to this principle -- Right
Concentration -- because it's an excellent gathering of the energies
of your mind. All energy in the world comes from stopping and
resting. Motion is something that destroys itself -- as when our
thinking goes all out of bounds. Take walking for instance: When we
walk, energy comes from the foot at rest. Or when we speak, energy
comes from stopping between phrases. If we were to talk without
stopping, without resting between phrases, not only would it waste
energy, but the language we'd speak wouldn't even be human. So it is
with practicing the Dhamma: Release comes from concentration and
discernment acting together. Release through the power of the mind
(//ceto-vimutti//) requires more concentration and less discernment;
release through discernment (//panna-vimutti//) ,more discernment and
less concentration -- but there is no way that release can be attained
without the stillness of concentration.
Thus, resting the mind provides the strength needed to support all
the qualities developed in the practice, which is why it's such an
essential part of Right Concentration. It forms a well-spring and a
storage place for all knowledge, whether of the world or of the
Dhamma. If you aren't acquainted with this basic principle, skilled
awareness won't arise. And if you don't have skilled awareness, how
will you be able to let go? You'll have to go groping around in
unskilled awareness. As long as the mind is in the grips of unskilled
awareness, it's bound to be deluded by its fashionings.
Unskilled awareness is a brine in which the mind lies soaking; a
mind soaked in its juices is like wet, sappy wood that, when burned,
gives off smoke as its signal, but no flame. As the smoke rises into
the air, you imagine it to be something high and exalted. It's high,
all right, but only like smoke or overcast clouds. If there's a lot
of it, it can obscure your vision and that of others, so that you
can't see the light of the sun and moon. This is why such people are
said to be 'groping.' Those who train their own hearts, though, will
give rise to skilled awareness. When skilled awareness penetrates the
heart, you'll come to realize the harmful potency of mental
fashionings. The arising of skilled awareness in the heart is like
the burning of dry, sapless wood that gives off flame and light. Even
though there may be some smoke, you don't pay it any mind, because the
firelight is more outstanding.
The flame of skilled awareness gives rise to five sorts of results:
1. Rust (the defilements) won't take hold of the heart.
2. The heart becomes purified.
3. The heart becomes radiant in and of itself (//pabhassaram
4. The heart develops majesty (//tejas//).
5. The three skills, the eight skills, and the four forms of
acumen will arise.
All of these things arise through the power of the mind. The nature
of the mind is that it already has a certain amount of instinctive
intuition -- the times when it knows on its own, as when you happen to
think of a particular person, and then he or she actually shows up.
All good qualities, from the mundane to the transcendent, are always
present in each of us. These qualities -- the Dhamma -- aren't the
exclusive possession of any particular group or person. We all have
the right to develop them and put them into practice.
For these qualities to yield results, we have to develop them in
conjunction with the following four principles --
1. //Chanda//: feeling an affinity for the practice.
2. //Viriya//: being persistent in the practice.
3. //Citta//: being intent on the practice.
4. //Vimansa//: being circumspect in what we do, i.e.,
circumspect before we do it, circumspect (mindful and aware) while
we're doing it, and circumspect with regard to the results that arise
from what we've done.
These four principles form the foundation for success in all areas,
whether in matters of the world or of the Dhamma. Once they're
actualized within us and focused together on a single goal, we're
bound to succeed in line with our aspirations. The results they
yield, briefly put, are of two sorts --
1. //Iddhiriddhi//: certain mundane powers that accrue to
2. //Punnariddhi//: power in terms of the Dhamma that will
accrue to meditators, providing means for settling issues that
relate to the world and the heart, or for liberating the mind
from all mundane influences. This is termed:
//Vimutti// -- release,
//Visuddhi// -- purity,
//Santi// -- peace,
//Nibbana// -- the disbanding of all stress.
Thus, I would like to invite all Buddhists -- all who hope for peace
and well-being -- to reflect on the principles of practice dealing
with Right Concentration presented here as a guide for those who are
interested. If you have any questions dealing with this book, or any
problems arising from the practice of training the mind, I will be
glad to give whatever advice I can.
May you prosper and be well.
Whoever feels that this book is of use and would like to print it
again for free distribution, may go ahead and do so without having to
ask permission. Some parts may not be correct in terms of the Pali,
so wherever there may be any mistakes, I ask your forgiveness.
-- Phra Ajaan Lee Dhammadharo
Wat Asokaram, Samut Prakaan
* * * * * * * *
'//Buddhanussati metta ca asubham maranassati:
(Recollection of the Buddha; good will;
The foul; mindfulness of death:
These four guardian protectors....)
-- Rama IV, '//Mokkhupaya Gatha//'
I. Recollection of the Buddha
//Araham samma-sambuddho bhagava:
Buddham bhagavantam abhivademi//.
The Blessed One is Worthy and Rightly Self-awakened.
I bow down before the Awakened, Blessed One. (Bow down)
//Svakkhato bhagavata dhammo:
The Dhamma is well-expounded by the Blessed One.
I pay homage to the Dhamma. (Bow down)
//Supatipanno bhagavato savaka-sangho:
The Sangha of the Blessed One's disciples has practiced well. I
pay respect to the Sangha. (Bow down)
A. Paying homage to objects worthy of respect:
//Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma-sambuddhassa//.
(Repeat three times.)
Homage to the Blessed One, the Worthy One, the Rightly Self-
//Ukasa, dvaratayena katam, sabbam aparadham khamatha me
Asking your leave, I request that you forgive me for whatever
wrong I have done with the three doors (of body, speech, and
//Vandami bhante cetiyam sabbam sabbattha thane, supatithitam
sariranka-dhatum, maha-bodhim buddha-rupam sakkarattham//.
I revere every stupa established in every place, every Relic of
the Buddha's body, every Great Bodhi tree, every Buddha image
that is an object of veneration.
//Aham vandami dhatuyo. Aham vandami sabbaso. Iccetam
ratanattayam, aham vandami sabbada//.
I revere the relics. I revere them everywhere. I always revere
the Triple Gem.
B. Paying homage to the Triple Gem:
//Buddha-puja mahatejavanto//: I ask to pay homage to the
Buddha, whose majesty is greater than the powers of all beings
human and divine. Thus, this homage to the Buddha is a means of
developing great majesty.
//Buddham jivitam yava nibbanam saranam gacchami//: I take
refuge in the Buddha from now until attaining nibbana.
//Dhamma-puja mahappanno//: I ask to pay homage to the Dhamma,
the teachings of the Buddha, which are a well-spring of
discernment for beings human and divine. Thus, this worship of
the Dhamma is a means of developing great discernment.
//Dhammam jivitam yava nibbanam saranam gacchami//: I take
refuge in the Dhamma from now until attaining nibbana.
//Sangha-puja mahabhogavaho//: I ask to pay homage to those
followers of the Buddha who have practiced well in thought,
word, and deed; and who possess all wealth, beginning with Noble
Wealth. Thus, this homage to the Sangha is a means of
developing great wealth.
//Sangham jivitam yava nibbanam saranam gacchami//: I take
refuge in the Sangha from now until attaining nibbana.
//N'atthi me saranam annam, Buddho dhammo sangho me saranam
varam: Etena saccavajjena hotu me jayamangalam//: I have no
other refuge: The Buddha, Dhamma and Sangha are my highest
refuge. By means of this vow, may the blessing of victory be
//Yankinci ratanam loke vijjati vividham puthu, Ratanam
buddha-dhamma-sangha-samam natthi, Tasma sotthi bhavantu me//:
Of the many and varied treasures found in the world, none equal
the Triple Gem. Therefore, may well-being be mine.
(If you repeat the translations of these passages, bow down once at
* * *
II. Good Will
Declare your purity, taking the Buddha, Dhamma, and Sangha as witness
once more, repeating this Pali passage:
//Parisuddho aham bhante. Parisuddhoti mam buddho dhammo sangho
dharetu//. (I now declare my purity to the Triple Gem. May the
Triple Gem recognize me as pure at present.)
Now develop thoughts of good will, saying:
//Sabbe satta// -- May all living beings
//Avera hontu// -- Be free from animosity,
//Abyapajjha hontu// -- Free from oppression,
//Anigha hontu// -- Free from trouble,
//Sukhi attanam pariharantu// -- May they look after themselves
//Sabbe satta sada hontu avera sukha-jivino//: May all beings
always live happily, free from animosity.
//Katam punna-phalam mayham sabbe bhagi bhavantu te//: May all
share in the blessings springing from the good I have done.
(This is the abbreviated version. If your time is limited, simply say
this much and then get into position to meditate.)
Spreading thoughts of good will to the six directions:
1. The eastern quarter: '//Puratthimasmim disa-bhage sabbe satta//
(May all living beings in the eastern quarter...) //avera hontu,
abyapajjha hontu, anigha hontu, sukhi attanam pariharantu. Sabbe
satta sada hontu avera sukhajivino. Katam punnaphalam mayham sabbe
bhagi bhavantu te//. (For translations, see above.)
2. The western quarter: '//Pacchimasmim disa-bhage sabbe satta//,
3. The northern quarter: '//Uttarasmim disa-bhage sabbe satta//,
4. The southern quarter: '//Dakkhinasmim disa-bhage sabbe satta//,
5. The lower regions: '//Hetthimasmim disa-bhage sabbe satta//,
6. The upper regions: '//Uparimasmim disa-bhage sabbe satta avera
hontu, abyapajjha hontu, anigha hontu, sukhi attanam pariharantu.
Sabbe satta sada hontu avera sukhajivino. Katam punnaphalam mayham
sabbe bhagi bhavantu te//. (Bow down three times.)
When you have finished spreading thoughts of good will to all six
directions, cleanse your heart of thoughts of animosity and
apprehension. Make your heart completely clear and at ease. Good
will acts as a support for purity of virtue and so is an appropriate
way of preparing the heart for the practice of tranquility and insight
* * *
III. The Foul: Tranquility Meditation
I.e., remove all befouling mental states from the mind. The things
that befoul and darken the mind are the five Hindrances --
-- //Kama-chanda//: sensual desires, taking pleasure in sensual
objects (sights, sounds, smells, tastes, tactile sensations,
ideas) and sensual moods (such as passion, aversion, and
-- //Byapada//: ill will, malevolence, hatred.
-- //Thina-middha//: torpor, lethargy, drowsiness, listlessness.
-- //Uddhacca-kukkucca//: restlessness and anxiety.
-- //Vicikiccha//: doubt, uncertainty.
When any of these unskillful states occupy the heart, it's not
flourishing, blooming, or bright. For the heart to bloom, it has to
be free from all five of the Hindrances; and for it to be free in this
way, we have to develop concentration or absorption (//jhana//), which
is composed of directed thought, evaluation, rapture, pleasure, and
singleness of preoccupation (see below). The heart will then be
clear, bright, and resplendent. In Pali, this is called
'//sobhana-citta//.' Thus, in this section we will discuss how to
develop concentration as a means of eliminating the Hindrances as
A. 'Among the forty themes, breath is supreme.'
Sit in a half-lotus position, your right leg on top of your left; your
hands palm-up in your lap, your right hand on top of your left. Keep
your body comfortably erect and your mind on what you're doing. Don't
let your thoughts go spinning forward or back. Be intent on keeping
track of the present: the present of the body, or the in-and-out
breath; and the present of the mind, or mindfulness and all-round
self-awareness. The present of the body and the present of the mind
should be brought together at a single point. In other words, make
the object of the mind single and one. Focus your attention on the
breath, keeping watch over it until you're clearly aware that, 'This
is the in-breath,' and 'This is the out.' Once you can see clearly in
this way, call to mind the virtues of the Buddha, Dhamma, and Sangha,
gathering them into a single word, 'Buddho.' Then divide 'Buddho'
into two syllables, thinking 'bud-' with the in-breath, and 'dho' with
the out, at the same time counting your breaths: 'Bud-' in, 'dho'
out, one; 'bud-' in, 'dho' out, two; 'bud-' in 'dho' out, three, and
so on up to ten. Then start counting again from one to nine; then one
to eight, one to seven...six...five...four...three...two...one...zero.
In other words:
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8
1 2 3 4 5 6 7
1 2 3 4 5 6
1 2 3 4
1 2 3
Keep three points -- the breath, your mindfulness, and your
awareness -- together in a single stream. If when you've finished
counting you find that your mind still won't stay with the breath,
start by counting again, from one to ten and so on to zero. Keep this
up until you feel that your mind has settled down, and then stay with
zero. In other words, you no longer have to count, you no longer have
to think 'Buddho.' Simply keep careful watch over your breath and
your awareness. Keep your awareness focused on a single point, being
mindful and watchful. Don't send it in and out after the breath. When
the breath comes in, you know. When it goes out, you know, but don't
make your awareness go in or out. Keep it still. Disregard all
thoughts of past or future. Keep watch only on the present. When you
can do this, the five Hindrances won't be able to find entry into the
mind. This is called '//parikamma bhavana//,' repetition meditation.
At this point, the mind becomes light and can put aside its heavy
burdens. When the mind is light, so is the body. In Pali this is
called, '//kaya-lahuta, citta-lahuta//.' The mind is peaceful and
solitary -- free from agitation and unrest -- clear and calm with the
refined sense of the breath. When the mind reaches this state, it's
in the sphere of directed thought (//vitakka//), which is the first
factor of jhana.
Now survey and examine the characteristics of the breath. Try
adjusting the breath in four different ways: Breathe in long and out
long, and see whether your mind is at ease with that sort of breath.
Then breathe in short and out short to see whether you feel
comfortable and at ease that way. Then see whether you feel at ease
breathing in long and out short, or in short and out long. Continue
breathing in whichever of these four ways feels most comfortable and
then let that comfortable breath spread throughout the different parts
of the body. At the same time, expand your sense of mindful awareness
along with the breath.
When the breath runs throughout the body, and the sensations of
breath in the various parts of the body are coordinated, they can be
put to use, for example, to relieve feelings of pain. Your sense of
mindfulness at this point is broad; your self-awareness, complete and
mature. When mindfulness is spread throughout the body, this is
called //kayagatasati// -- mindfulness immersed in the body. Your
frame of reference is large and expansive, and so is called
'//mahasatipatthana//.' Your self-awareness is present throughout,
aware both of the causes -- i.e., what you're doing -- and of the
results coming from what you've done. All of these characteristics are
aspects of evaluation (//vicara//), the second factor of jhana.
Now that the body and mind have received nourishment -- in other
words, now that the breath has provided for the body, and mindfulness
has provided for the mind -- both body and mind are bound to reap
results, i.e., rapture. The body is full and refreshed, free from
restlessness. The mind is full and refreshed, free from anxiety and
distraction, broad and blooming. This is called rapture (//piti//),
which is the third factor of jhana.
Once fullness arises in this way, body and mind settle down and are
still. In Pali this is termed '//kaya-passaddhi, citta-passaddhi//.'
This feeling of stillness leads to a sense of relaxation and ease for
both body and mind, termed pleasure (//sukha//).
These are the beginning steps in dealing with the mind. Once you are
able to follow them, you should make a point of practicing them
repeatedly, back and forth, until you're skilled at entering
concentration, staying in place, and withdrawing. Even just this much
can form a path along which the mind can then progress, for it has to
some extent already reached the level of //upacara bhavana//,
B. Focal points for the mind
These include: (1) the tip of the nose; (2) the middle of the head;
(3) the palate; (4) the base of the throat; (5) the tip of the
breastbone; (6) the 'center,' two inches above the navel. In
centering the breath at any of these points, people who tend to have
headaches shouldn't focus on any point above the base of the throat.
Coordinate the various aspects of breath in the body, such as the
up-flowing breath, the down-flowing breath, the breath flowing in the
stomach, the breath flowing in the intestines, the breath flowing
along every part of the body, hot breath, cool breath, warm breath:
Mesh these various sorts of breath so that they're balanced, even, and
just right, so as to give rise to a sense of ease and comfort
throughout the body. The purpose of examining and coordinating the
breath is to expand your sense of mindfulness and awareness so that
they are sensitive throughout the entire body. This will then benefit
both body and mind. The enlarged sense of the body is termed
//mahabhuta-rupa//; expanded awareness is termed //mahaggatam
cittam//. This sense of awareness will then go on to reap the
benefits of its beauty that will arise in various ways, leading it to
the level of //appana bhavana//, fixed penetration.
The characteristics of the in-and-out breath, as they interact with
the properties of the body, can cause the properties of water and
earth to be affected as follows:
There are three types of blood in the human body --
1. Clear, white -- arising from cool breath.
2. Light red, dark red -- arising from warm breath.
3. Black, bluish black -- arising from hot breath.
These different types of blood, as they nourish the nerves in the
body, can cause people to have different tendencies:
1. Hot breath can make a person tend heavily toward being
affectionate, easily attracted, and infatuated -- tendencies
that are associated with delusion.
2. Warm breath can cause a person to have moderate tendencies as
far as affection is concerned, but strong tendencies toward a
quick and violent temper -- tendencies associated with anger.
3. Cool breath causes weak tendencies toward affection, but
strong tendencies toward greed, craving material objects more
than anything else.
If we know clearly which physical properties are aggravating greed,
anger, or delusion, we can destroy the corresponding properties and
these states of mind will weaken on their own.
'Remove the fuel, and the fire won't blaze.'
To adjust these properties skillfully gives rise to discernment,
which lies at the essence of being skillful. Adjust the property of
warmth so that the blood is clear and light red, and your discernment
will be quick, your nerves healthy, your thinking perceptive, subtle,
and deep. In other words, to make heavier use of the nerves in the
physical heart is the way of the Dhamma. As for the nerves of the
brain, to use them a great deal leads to restlessness, distraction,
and heavy defilements.
These are just a few of the issues related to the breath. There are
many, many more, that people of discernment should discover on their
own. //Nana-dhatu-vijja//: knowledge of the subtleties of all 18
elements (//dhatu//), the 22 pre-eminent qualities (//indriya//), the
six sense media (//ayatana//); acute insight into the qualities of the
mind; expertise in concentration. Concentration gives rise to
liberating insight, acquaintance with the process of fashioning;
//nibbida// -- disenchantment;
//viraga// -- disengagement;
//nirodha //-- utter disbanding;
//vimutti// -- a mind released from the mundane;
//santi// -- peace of heart;
//paramam sukham// -- the ease that is ultimate bliss.
These are of two sorts --
1. //Uggaha nimitta//: images as they are first perceived.
2. //Patibhaga nimitta//: adjusted images.
Images of either sort can appear at certain mental moments or with
certain people. When the mind becomes still, //uggaha nimittas// can
appear in either of two ways:
-- from mental notes made in the past;
-- on their own, without our ever having thought of the matter.
Uggaha nimittas of both sorts can be either beneficial or harmful,
true or false, so we shouldn't place complete trust in them. If we're
thoroughly mindful and self-aware, they can be beneficial. But if our
powers of reference are weak or if we lack strength of mind, we're
likely to follow the drift of whatever images appear, sometimes losing
our bearings to the point where we latch on to the images as being
//Uggaha nimittas// are of two sorts --
a. Sensation-images: e.g., seeing images of our own body, of other
people, of animals, or of corpses; images of black, red, blue or
white. Sometimes these images are true, sometimes not. Sometimes
images arise by way of the ear -- for example, we may hear the
voice of a person talking. Sometimes they arise by way of the nose
-- we may smell fragrant scents or foul, like those of a corpse.
Sometimes images are sensed by the body -- the body may feel small
or large, tall or short. All of these sensations are classed as
//uggaha nimittas//. If the mind is strong and resilient, they
can act as a means for the arising of liberating insight. If our
powers of reference are weak, though, they can turn into
corruptions of insight (//vipassanupakkilesa//), in which we fall
for the objects we experience, believing them to be true. Even
when they're true, things that are false can mingle in with them
-- like a man sitting under the open sky: When the sun shines,
he's bound to have a shadow. The man really exists, and the
shadow is connected with him, but the shadow isn't really the man.
Thus, we're taught to let go of what's true and real; things that
are untrue will then fall from our grasp as well.
b. Thought-images: When the breath is subtle and the mind is still
and unoccupied, things can occur to it. Sometimes we may think of
a question and then immediately know the answer. Sometimes we
don't even have to think: The knowledge pops into the mind on its
own. Things of this sort are also classed as //uggaha nimittas//.
Sometimes they may be true, sometimes false, sometimes mixed. You
can't trust them to be absolutely true. Sometimes they're true,
and that truth is what leads us to fall for them. For example,
they may be true about three things and false about seven. Once
we've placed our confidence in them, even the false things will
appear true to us. This is one way of giving rise to the
corruptions of insight.
So when sensation-images or thought-images arise in one way or
another, you should then practice adjusting and analyzing them
(//patibhaga nimitta//). In other words, when a visual image arises,
if it's large, make it small, far, near, large, small, appear, and
disappear. Analyze it into its various parts and then let it go.
Don't let these images influence the mind. Instead, have the mind
influence the images, as you will. If you aren't able to do this,
then don't get involved with them. Disregard them and return to your
original practice with the breath.
If a thought-image arises by way of the mind, stop, take your
bearings, and consider exactly how much truth there is to the
knowledge it gives. Even if it's true, you shouldn't latch onto what
you know or see. If you latch onto your knowledge, it'll become a
corruption of insight. If you latch on to your views, they'll become
a form of attachment and conceit, in which you assume yourself to be
this or that. Thus, you should let go of these things, in line with
their true nature. If you aren't wise to them, they can skew your
practice so that you miss out on the highest good.
D. The Ten Corruptions of Insight
1. //Obhasa//: a bright light that enables you to see places both
far and near.
2. //Nana//: knowledge enabling you to know in an uncanny way things
you never before knew, such as //pubbenivasanussati-nana//, the
ability to remember previous lifetimes. Even knowledge of this sort,
though, can mislead you. If you learn good things about your past,
you may get pleased. If you learn bad or undesirable things about
your past, you may get displeased. //Cutupapata-nana//: Sometimes you
may learn how people and other living beings die and are reborn --
knowing, for instance, where they are reborn when they have died from
this world -- which can cause you to become engrossed in the various
things you come to know and see. As you become more and more
engrossed, false knowledge can step in, and yet you still assume it to
3. //Piti//: a sense of physical and mental fullness and
satisfaction, full to the point of infatuation -- physically satisfied
to the point where you don't feel hunger or thirst, heat or cold;
mentally satisfied to the point where you become engrossed and
oblivious, lazy and lethargic, perhaps deciding that you've already
achieved the goal. What's actually happened is that you've swallowed
your mood down whole.
4. //Passaddhi//: The body is at peace and the mind serene, to the
point where you don't want to encounter anything in the world. You
see the world as being unpeaceful and you don't want to have anything
to do with it. Actually, if the mind is really at peace, everything
in the world will also be at peace. People who are addicted to a
sense of peace won't want to do any physical work or even think about
anything, because they're stuck on that sense of peace as a constant
5. //Sukha//: Once there's peace, there's a sense of physical and
mental pleasure and ease; and once there's a great deal of pleasure,
you come to hate pain, seeing pleasure as something good and pain as
something bad. Your view of things falls into two parts. (Actually,
pleasure doesn't come from anywhere else but pain.) Pain is the same
thing as pleasure: When pleasure arises, pain is its shadow; when
pain arise, pleasure is its shadow. As long as you don't understand
this, you give rise to a kind of defilement -- again, you swallow your
mood down whole. When a deep and arresting sense of relaxation,
stillness, ease, or freedom from disturbance arises, you get engrossed
in that feeling. What has happened is that you're simply stuck on a
pleasing mental state.
6. //Adhimokkha//: being disposed to believing that your knowledge
and the things you know are true. Once 'true' takes a stance, 'false'
is bound to enter the picture. True and false go together, i.e.,
they're one and the same thing. For example, suppose we ask, 'Is Nai
Daeng at home?' and someone answers, 'No, he isn't.' If Nai Daeng
really exists and he's really at home, then when that person says,
'He's not at home,' he's lying. But if Nai Daeng doesn't exist, that
person can't lie. Thus, true and false are one and the same....
7. //Paggaha//: excessive persistence, leading to restlessness.
You're simply fastened on your preoccupation and too strongly focused
on your goal....
8. //Upatthana//: being obsessed with a particular item you've come
to know or see, refusing to let it go.
9. //Upekkha//: indifference, not wanting to meet with anything, be
aware of anything, think about anything, or figure anything out;
assuming that you've let go completely. Actually, though, this is a
misunderstanding of that very mental moment.
10. //Nikanti//: being content with your various preoccupations,
simply attached to the things you experience or see.
All of these things, if we aren't wise to them, can corrupt the
heart. So, as meditators, we should attend to them and reflect on
them until we understand them thoroughly. Only then will we be able
to give rise to liberating insight, clear knowledge of the four
1. Physical and mental stress, i.e., the things that burden the
body or mind. Physical and mental pleasure and ease, though, are also
classed as stress because they are subject to change.
2. The factors that enable these forms of stress to arise are
a. //Kama-tanha//: craving for attractive and appealing sights,
sounds, smells, tastes, tactile sensations, and ideas; fastening
onto these things, grabbing hold of them as belonging to the
self. This is one factor that enables stress to arise. (The
mind flashes out.)
b. //Bhava-tanha//: desire for things to be this way or that at
times when they can't be the way we want them; wanting things to
be a certain way outside of the proper time or occasion. This
is called 'being hungry' -- like a person who hungers for food
but has no food to eat and so acts in a way that shows, 'I'm a
person who wants to eat.' Bhava-tanha is another factor that
enables stress to arise. (The mind strays.)
c. Vibhava-tanha//: not wanting things to be this way or that,
e.g., having been born, not wanting to die; not wanting to be
deprived of the worldly things we've acquired: for example,
having status and wealth and yet not wanting our status and
wealth to leave us. The truth of the matter is that there's no
way it can be avoided. As soon as the change comes, we thus
feel stress and pain. (The mind flinches.)
wandering on from one state of becoming to another.'
Different states of becoming arise first in the mind, then giving
rise to birth. Thus, people of discernment let go of these things,
3. //Nirodha// -- cessation or disbanding -- to appear in the
heart. In other words, the mind discovers the limits of craving and
lets it go through the practice of insight meditation, letting go of
all fashionings, both good and bad. To be able to let go in this way,
we have to develop:
4. //Magga// -- the Path -- so as to make it powerful. In other
words, we have to give rise to pure discernment within our own minds
so that we can know the truth. Stress is a truth; its cause is a
truth; its cessation and the Path are truths: To know in this way is
liberating insight. And then when we let all four truths fall away
from us so that we gain release from 'true,' that's when we'll reach
deathlessness (//amata dhamma//). Truths have their drawbacks in that
untrue things are mixed in with them. Wherever real money exists,
there's bound to be counterfeit. Wherever there are rich people, there
are bound to be thieves waiting to rob them. This is why release has
to let go of truths before it can reach nibbana.
Meditators, then, should acquaint themselves with the enemies of
concentration, so as to keep their distance from all five of the
Hindrances, the two sorts of //uggaha nimittas//, and the ten
corruptions of insight. The mind will then be able to gain release
from all things defiling, dirty, and damp. What this means is that
the mind doesn't hold onto anything at all. It lets go of supposings,
meanings, practice, and attainment. //Above cause and beyond
effect//: That's the aim of the Buddha's teachings.
Those who want to get rid of //kama-tanha// -- desire and attraction
for the six types of sensory objects -- have to develop virtue that's
pure all the way to the heart: This is termed heightened virtue
(//adhisila//). Those who are to get rid of //bhava-tanha// --
thoughts that stray out, choosing objects to dwell on -- first have to
develop Right Concentration, pure and circumspect: This is termed
heightened mind (//adhicitta//). Those who are to get rid of
//vibhava-tanha// -- attachment to knowledge and viewpoints,
attainments and states of becoming, theories and conceits -- will
first have to develop clear-seeing discernment, cognitive skill that's
pure and fully developed: This is heightened discernment
(//adhipanna//). Thus, the threefold training -- virtue,
concentration, and discernment -- is a group of truths that can let go
of the causes of stress. Other than this, there's no way to release.
* * *
IV. Mindfulness of Death: Insight Meditation
I.e., keep death in mind. This is where the mind advances to the
development of liberating insight, taking death as its theme. 'Death'
here refers to the death occurring in the present -- physical
sensations arising and passing away, mental acts arising and passing
away, all in a moment of awareness. Only when you're aware on this
level can you be classed as being mindful of death.
Now that we've brought up the topic of death, we have to reflect on
birth, seeing how many ways sensations are born and how many ways
mental acts are born. This is something a person with a quiet mind
A. Sensations have up to five levels of refinement --
1. //Hina-rupa//: coarse sensations, sensations of discomfort,
aches and pains. When these arise, focus on what causes them
until they disappear.
2. //Panita-rupa//: exquisite sensations that make the body
feel pleasurable, light, and refined. Focus on what causes them
until they disappear....
3. //Sukhumala-rupa//: delicate sensations, tender, yielding,
and agile. When they arise, focus on what causes them until
4. //Olarika-rupa//: physical sensations that give a sense of
grandeur, exuberance, brightness, and exultation: '//Mukhavanno
vipassidati//.' When they arise, focus on finding out what
causes them until they disappear....
All four of these sensations arise and disband by their very nature;
and it's possible to find out where they first appear.
5. '//Mano-bhava//': imagined circumstances that appear through
the power of the mind. When they arise, focus on keeping track
of them until they disappear. Once you're able to know in this
way, you enter the sphere of true mindfulness of death.
An explanation of this sort of sensation: When the mind is quiet
and steadily concentrated, it has the power to create images in the
imagination (inner sensations, or sensations within sensations).
Whatever images it thinks of will then appear to it; and once they
appear, the mind tends to enter into them and take up residence. (It
can go great distances.) If the mind fastens onto these sensations,
it is said to take birth -- simply because it has no sense of death.
These sensations can appear in any of five ways: --
a. arising from the posture of the body, disappearing when the
b. arising from thoughts imbued with greed, hatred, or delusion
-- arising, taking a stance, and then disbanding;
c. arising with an in-breath and disbanding with the following
d. arising from the cleansing of the blood in the lungs --
appearing and disbanding in a single instant;
e. arising from the heart's pumping blood into the various parts
of the body, the pressure of the blood causing sensations to
arise that correspond to sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and
tactile sensations. Sensations of this sort are arising and
disbanding every moment.
Another class of sensation is termed '//gocara-rupa//' -- sensations
that circle around the physical body. There are five sorts -- light,
sound, smells, tastes, and tactile sensations -- each having five
levels. For instance, common light travels slowly; in the flash of an
eye it runs for a league and then dies away. The second level, subtle
light, goes further; and the third level goes further still. The
fourth and fifth levels can travel the entire universe. The same
holds true for sounds, smells, tastes, and tactile sensations. The
relationships between all the potentials in the universe are
interacting at every moment, differing only as to whether they're fast
or slow. This is the inequality that has been termed
'//anicca-lakkhana//' -- inherent inconstancy. Whoever is ignorant is
bound to think that all this is impossible, but actually this is the
way things already are by their nature. We'll come to know this
through //vijja// -- cognitive skill -- not through ordinary labels
and allusions. This is called true knowing, which meditators who
develop the inner eye will realize for themselves: knowing the
arising of these sensations, their persisting and their disbanding, in
terms of their primary qualities and basic regularity.
Knowing things for what they really are.
Release, purity, disengagement, disbanding;
//Nibbanam paramam sukham//:
Nibbana is the ultimate ease.
B. As for mental acts that arise and die, their timespan is many
thousands of times faster than that of sensations. To be able to keep
track of their arising and dying away, our awareness has to be still.
The four kinds of mental acts are:
-- //Vedana//: the mind's experience of feelings of pleasure,
pain, and indifference.
-- //Sanna//: recognizing and labeling the objects of
-- //Sankhara//: mental fabrications or fashionings of good and
-- //Vinnana//: distinct consciousness or cognizance of
One class of these mental acts stays in place, arising and
disbanding with reference to the immediate present. Another class is
termed 'gocara vedana' 'gocara sanna,' etc., which go out to refer to
the world. Each of these has five levels, differing as to whether
they're common, refined, or subtle, slow or fast. These five levels
connect with each other, running out in stages, and then circling back
to their starting point, disbanding and then arising again -- all
When we don't have the skill to discern the primary sensations and
mental acts that stay in place, we can't see into the '//gocara//'
sensations and mental acts that go flowing around. This is termed
'//avijja//,' the unawareness that opens the way for connecting
consciousness (//patisandhi vinnana//), giving rise to the act of
fashioning (//sankhara//), which is the essence of //kamma//. This
gives fruit as sensations and feelings that are followed by craving,
and then the act of labeling, which gives rise to another level of
consciousness -- of sensory objects -- and then the cycle goes
circling on. This is termed the '//khandha-vatta//,' the cycle of the
aggregates, circling and changing unevenly and inconsistently. To see
this is called //aniccanupassana-nana//, the knowledge that keeps
track of inconstancy as it occurs. This is known through the inner
eye, i.e., the skill of genuine discernment.
Thus, those who practice the exercises of insight meditation should
use their sensitivities and circumspection to the full if they hope to
gain release from unawareness. Fashionings, in this context, are like
waves on the ocean. If we're out in a boat on the ocean when the waves
are high, our vision is curtailed. Our senses of hearing, smell,
taste, touch, and ideation are all curtailed. We won't be able to
perceive far into the distance. What this means is that when our
minds are immersed in the Hindrances, we won't be able to perceive
death at all. But once we've been able to suppress the Hindrances,
it's like taking a boat across the ocean when there are no waves.
We'll be able to see objects far in the distance. Our eyes will be
clear-seeing, our ears clear-hearing, our senses of smell, taste,
touch and ideation will be broad and wide open. The water will be
clear, and the light brilliant. We'll be able to know all around us.
In the same way, those who are to know death clearly have to begin
by practicing concentration as a foundation for developing liberating
insight. How do the five sorts of above-mentioned sensation arise?
What are their causes? How do they disappear? How do physical and
mental feelings arise? How do they disappear? What are their causes?
How do labels and concepts arise? What are their causes? How do they
disappear? How do mental fashionings arise? What are their causes?
How do they disappear? How does consciousness arise by way of the
senses of sight, hearing, smell, taste, touch, and ideation? What are
its causes? How does it disappear?
Altogether there are four levels to each of the five aggregates
(//khandhas//): external and internal, staying in place and streaming
outward. These can be known at all times, but only people who have
the discernment that comes from training the mind in tranquility and
insight meditation will be able to know death on this level.
The discernment that arises in this way has been termed
//pubbenivasanussati-nana//, i.e., understanding of past sensations,
future sensations, and sensations in the present. These sensations
differ in the way they arise and pass away. To know this is to have
mastered one cognitive skill.
//Cutupapata-nana//: With discernment of this sort, we're able to
keep track of the states of our own mind as they arise and disappear,
sometimes good as they arise and good as they disappear, sometimes bad
as they arise and bad as they disappear, sometimes good as they arise
and bad as they disappear, sometimes bad as they arise and good as
they disappear. To be able to keep track in this way is to know
states of being and birth.
//Asavakkhaya-nana//: When the discernment of this skill arises, it
leads to disenchantment with the way sensations and mental acts arise
and disappear and then arise again, simply circling about: coarser
sensations going through the cycle slowly, more refined sensations
going quickly; coarser mental acts going slowly, more refined mental
acts going quickly. When you can keep track of this, you know one
form of stress. Now focus attention back on your own mind to see
whether or not it's neutral at that moment. If the mind approves of
its knowledge or of the things it knows, that's
//kamasukhallikanuyoga// -- indulgence in pleasure. If the mind
disapproves of its knowledge or of the things it knows, that's
//attakilamathanuyoga//, indulgence in self-infliction. Once you've
seen this, make the mind neutral toward whatever it may know: That
moment of awareness is the mental state forming the Path. When the
Path arises, the causes of stress disband. Try your best to keep that
mental state going. Follow that train of awareness as much as you
can. The mind when it's in that state is said to be developing the
Path -- and at whatever moment the Path stands firm, disbanding and
When you can do this, you reach the level where you know death
clearly. People who know death in this way are then able to reduce
the number of their own deaths. Some of the Noble Ones have seven
more deaths ahead of them, some have only one more, others go beyond
death entirely. These Noble Ones are people who understand birth and
death, and for this reason have only a few deaths left to them.
Ordinary people who understand their own birth and death on this level
are hard to find. Common, ordinary birth and death aren't especially
necessary; but people who don't understand the Dhamma have to put up
with birth and death as a common thing.
So whoever is to know death on this level will have to develop the
cognitive skill that comes from training the mind. The skill, here,
is knowing which preoccupations of the mind are in the past, which are
in the future, and which are in the present. This is cognitive skill
(//vijja//). Letting go of the past, letting go of the future, letting
go of the present, not latching onto anything at all: This is purity
As for unawareness, it's the exact opposite, i.e., not knowing
what's past, not knowing what's future, not knowing what's present --
that is, the arising and falling away of sensations and mental acts,
or body and mind -- or at most knowing only on the level of label and
concepts remembered from what other people have said, not knowing on
the level of awareness that we've developed on our own. All of this
is classed as //avijja//, or unawareness.
No matter how much we may use words of wisdom and discernment, it
still won't gain us release. For instance, we may know that things
are inconstant, but we still fall for inconstant things. We may know
about things that are stressful, but we still fall for them. We may
know that things are not-self, but we still fall for things that are
not-self. Our knowledge of inconstancy, stress, and not-self isn't
true. Then how are these things truly known? Like this:
Knowing both sides,
Letting go both ways,
'Knowing both sides' means knowing what's constant and what's
inconstant, what's stress and what's ease, what's not-self and what's
self. 'Letting go both ways' means not latching onto things that are
constant or inconstant, not latching onto stress or ease, not latching
onto self or not-self. 'Shedding everything' means not holding onto
past, present, or future: Awareness doesn't head forward or back, and
yet you can't say that it's taking a stance.
//Yavadeva nanamattaya patissatimattaya anissito ca viharati na
ca kinci loke upadiyati//.
'Simply mindful and aware, the mind remains independent, not
attached to anything in the world.'
* * * * * * * *
I. There are three sets of results arising from the practice.
1. //Pubbenivasanussati-nana//: the ability to remember previous
2. //Cutupapata-nana//: the ability to know how the living beings of
the world die and are reborn.
3. //Asavakkhaya-nana//: understanding how to put an end to the
defilements of the heart.
1. //Vipassana-nana//: clear insight, through training the mind,
into phenomena in and of themselves, in terms of the four Noble
2. //Manomayiddhi//: psychic power, making things appear in line
with your thoughts -- for example, thinking of a visual image that
then appears to the physical eye. Those who are to develop this skill
must first become expert at //uggaha nimittas//.
3. //Iddhividhi//: the ability to change such images as you like.
Those who are to develop this skill must first become expert in
4. //Dibbacakkhu//: clairvoyance, the ability to see great
distances. Only people with good optic nerves -- and who understand
how to adjust the physical properties in the body so as to keep the
nerves charged and awake -- will be able to develop this skill.
5. //Dibbasota//: clairaudience, the ability to hear sounds at great
distances. Only people whose auditory nerves are good -- and who
understand how to adjust the properties in the body so that they act
as a conducting medium -- will be able to develop this skill.
6. //Cetopariya-nana//: knowing the thoughts and mental states of
other people. To do this, you first have to adjust the fluids
nourishing your heart muscles so that they're clean and pure.
7. //Pubbenivasanussati-nana//: the ability to remember previous
lives, knowing by means of mental images or intuitive verbal
knowledge. To remember past lives, you first have to understand how
to interchange the physical properties in the body.
8. //Asavakkhaya-nana//: knowing the causes for mental defilement;
knowing the means for putting an end to mental fermentations.
1. //Attha-patisambhida-nana//: acumen in understanding the meaning
of various teachings.
2. //Dhamma-patisambhida-nana//: acumen -- acquired by means of your
own heart -- with regard to all fashioned properties and qualities.
3. //Nirutti-patisambhida-nana//: the ability to understand by means
of the heart the affairs and languages of people and other living
beings in the world.
4. //Patibhana-patisambhida-nana//: the intuitive ability to respond
promptly and aptly in situations where you're called on to speak; the
ability to respond to an opponent without having to think: Simply by
focusing the mind heavily down, the right response will appear on its
own, just as a flashlight gives off light immediately as we press the
* * *
Taken together, all of these skills arise exclusively from training
the heart and are called //bhavana-maya-panna// -- discernment
developed through training the mind. They can't be taught. You have
to know them on your own. Thus, they can be called
//paccatta-vijja//, personal skills. If you're astute enough, they
can all become transcendent. If not, they all become mundane. Thus,
the principles of discernment are two:
1. Mundane discernment: studying and memorizing a great deal,
thinking and evaluating a great deal, and then understanding on the
common level of labels and allusions.
2. Transcendent discernment: knowledge that comes from practicing
Right Concentration; intuitive understanding that arises naturally on
its own within the heart, beyond the scope of the world; clear
insight; release from all views, conceits, defilements, and
fermentations of the mind.
* * *
II. //Upakara dhamma//. There are three sets of qualities that are
of help in giving rise to cognitive skill.
1. //Sila-sanvara//: taking good care of your virtue -- your manners
and conduct in thought, word, and deed -- following such principles as
the ten guidelines (//kammapatha//).
2. //Indriya-sanvara//: being constantly mindful of the six
'gateways' -- the senses of sight, hearing, smell, taste, touch, and
ideation -- making sure they don't give rise to anything that would
disturb your own peace or that of others.
3. //Bhojane mattannuta//: having a sense of moderation in the
amount of food you eat -- not too much, not too little, eating only
food that's compatible with your physical make-up; making sure that
it's light food: Otherwise, you'll have to eat only half-full or on
the small side. As far as food is concerned, if you can get by on
only one meal a day, you'll find it much easier to train the mind.
There are three ways of eating --
a. Stuffing yourself full. This interferes with concentration
and is termed 'being greedy.'
b. Eating just enough to keep the body going. This is termed
'being content with what you have.'
c. Eating no more than half full. This is termed 'being a
person of few wants,' who has no worries associated with food
and whose body weighs lightly. Just as a tree with light
heartwood won't sink when it falls in the water, so the
meditation of such a person is not inclined to lead to anything
low. The senses of such a person -- the nerves of the eyes,
ears, nose, tongue, and body -- tend toward peacefulness and are
well-suited for helping the mind to attain peace.
4. //Jagariyanuyoga//: awakening the physical properties of the body
by developing the factor that fashions the body (//kaya-sankhara//),
i.e., adjusting the in-and-out breath so that it's thoroughly
beneficial to the properties of earth, water, wind, and fire within
the body. This is termed developing mindfulness immersed in the body
(//kayagatasati-bhavana//), as in the verse:
Yesam diva ca ratto ca
'The disciples of the Buddha Gotama are always well alert, their
mindfulness constantly, by day and by night, immersed in the
body'...their mindfulness charging the body whether their eyes
are open or closed.
At the same time, we have to understand how to keep the mind wide
awake through developing jhana, starting with directed thought,
evaluation, rapture, pleasure, and singleness of object (see below).
The mind will then awaken from its forgetfulness. With regard to
forgetfulness, the Buddha taught that when the mind gets drawn in by
its objects, it faints for a spell. If this happens often enough to
become a habit, it gives rise to delusion, leaving us no way to give
rise to the discernment of liberating insight.
1. //Saddha//: conviction, i.e., being convinced of the causes of
goodness and of the results that will come from acting in line with
2. //Hiri//: inner shame at the thought of doing evil, not daring to
do evil either openly or secretly, because we realize that there are
no secret places in the world. Even if other people don't see us
doing evil, we ourselves are sure to see.
3. //Ottappa//: fear of evil, not being attracted to the idea of
doing evil; viewing bad kamma as a poisonous cobra raising its head
and spreading its hood, and thus not daring to go close to it.
4. //Bahusacca//: studying and training yourself constantly, seeking
advice from those who are knowledgeable and expert in the practice.
Don't associate with people who have no knowledge of the matters in
which you are interested.
5. //Viriya//: persistence in abandoning the defilements of the mind
-- i.e., the Hindrances; perseverance in giving rise to good within
the mind by developing such things as the first level of jhana.
Briefly put, there are three ways to do this: being persistent in
giving rise to the good, in maintaining the good, and in constantly
developing the good that has already arisen.
6. //Satipatthana//: giving your powers of reference a frame and a
focal point by developing mindfulness immersed in the body (//'kesa,
loma'//) or mindfulness of breathing, etc.
7. //Panna//: discernment; circumspection that's all-encompassing
and fully reasonable in doing good, in maintaining the good, and in
using the good so as to be of benefit at large -- for low-level
benefits, intermediate benefits, and ultimate benefits, with regard to
this life, lives to come, and the ultimate benefit, nibbana. This is
what is meant by discernment.
1. The first level of jhana. //Vitakka//: Think of an object for
the mind to focus on. // Vicara//: Evaluate the object on which you
have focused. For example, once you are focused on keeping track of
the breath, take a good look at the various breath-sensations in the
body. Learn how to adjust and change whichever part or aspect is
uncomfortable. Learn how to use whichever part feels good so as to be
of benefit to the body and mind. Keep this up continually, and
results will appear: The body will feel light and full, permeated
with a sense of rapture and refreshment (//piti//). Awareness will be
full and all-round, with no distracting restlessness. At this point,
both mind and body are quiet, just as a child lying in a cradle with a
doll to play with won't cry. The body is thus at ease, and the mind
relaxed (//sukha//). //Ekaggatam cittam//: The mind sticks steadily
with a single object, without grasping after past or future,
comfortably focused in the present. This much qualifies as jhana.
2. The second level of jhana. Directed thought and evaluation
disappear; awareness settles in on its sense of ease and rapture. The
body is relaxed, the mind quiet and serene. The body feels full, like
the earth saturated with rain water to the point where puddles form.
The mind feels brighter and clearer. As awareness focuses more
heavily on its one object, it expands itself even further, letting go
of the sense of rapture and entering the third level of jhana.
3. The third level of jhana has two factors --
a. //Sukha, its taste: physical pleasure; cool mental pleasure
b. //Ekaggatarammana//: Awareness is firm and fixed in a snug
fit with its object. As it focuses strongly and forcibly
expands itself, a bright sense of light appears. The mind seems
much more open and blooming than before. As you focus in with
complete mindfulness and self-awareness, the sense of pleasure
begins to waver, and as the mind adjusts its focus slightly it
enters the fourth level of jhana.
4. The fourth level of jhana has two factors --
a. //Upekkha//: equanimity with regard to objects. Past,
future, and the grosser sense of the body in the present
b. //Ekaggatarammana//: The mind is solitary, its mindfulness
full and bright -- as if you were sitting in a brightly-lit,
empty room with your work finished, free to relax as you like.
The mind rests, its energy strong and expansive.
Now withdraw from this level back out to the first and then enter in
again. As you do this repeatedly, liberating insight will arise on
its own, just as with a light connected to a battery: When we press
down on the switch, the light flashes out on its own. And then we can
use whatever color of bulb we want and put it to use in whatever way
we like, depending on our own skill and ingenuity. In other words,
the skills mentioned above will appear.
People who develop jhana fall into three classes:
1. Those who attain only the first level and then gain
liberating insight right then and there are said to excel in
discernment (//pannadhika//). They Awaken quickly, and their
release is termed //panna-vimutti//, release through
2. Those who develop jhana to the fourth level, there gaining
liberating insight into the Noble Truths, are said to excel in
conviction (//saddhadhika//). They develop a moderate number of
skills, and their Awakening occurs at a moderate rate. Their
release is the first level of //ceto-vimutti//, release through
3. Those who become skilled at the four levels of jhana --
adept at entering, staying in place, and withdrawing -- and then
go all the way to the four levels of arupa-jhana, after which
they withdraw back to the first level of jhana, over and over
again, until finally intuitive knowledge, the cognitive skills,
and liberating discernment arise, giving release from mental
fermentation and defilement: These people are said to excel in
persistence (//viriyadhika//). People who practice jhana a great
deal, developing strong energy and bright inner light, can
Awaken suddenly in a single mental instant, as soon as
discernment first arises. Their release is
//cetopariyavimutti//, release through mastery of concentration.
These are the results to be gained by meditators. But there have to
be causes -- our own actions -- before the results can come fully
* * * * * * * *
The 'Seven Important Sets of Principles' listed in the prologue to
//Basic Themes// are common to all schools of Buddhism. In the Pali
Canon they appear in a number of discourses (e.g., //Mahaparinibbana
Sutta//, //Pasadika Sutta//, etc.) as the Buddha's own summary of the
essential points of his teaching. Many of these principles are
discussed in connection with various aspects of the practice at
different points in this book. What follows is a selection of
excerpts from Ajaan Lee's other writings and talks dealing with these
principles as they relate directly to the practice of keeping the
breath in mind.
* * *
The four frames of reference when we sit in meditation: The breath is
'body'; comfort and discomfort are 'feeling'; purity and clarity are
states of 'mind'; and steadiness of mind is 'mental quality.'
* * *
//Chanda//: being content to focus on the breath. //Viriya//: trying
to adjust the breath so that it's comfortable. //Citta//: paying
attention to how the breath is flowing. //Vimansa//: knowing how to
use the breath to benefit every part of the body. If we follow these
four 'paths to success,' they will lead us to liberating insight.
* * *
In order to divest our hearts of sights, sounds, smells, tastes, etc.,
we have to develop concentration, which is composed of seven basic
1. //Sati-sambojjhanga//: The mind is centered firmly on the
breath, aware of the body, feelings, mind, and mental qualities.
2. //Dhamma-vicaya-sambojjhanga//: We let the breath spread
throughout the body, making an enlarged frame of reference. We
know how to adjust, improve, choose, and use our breaths so that
they give us comfort. We throw out whichever breaths are
harmful and foster whichever ones are beneficial.
3. //Viriya-sambojjhanga//: We don't abandon or forget the
breath. We stick with it, and it sticks with us as we keep
warding the Hindrances from the heart. We don't fasten on or
become involved with distracting perceptions. We keep trying to
make our stillness of mind stronger and stronger.
4. //Piti-sambojjhanga//: When the mind is quiet, the breath is
full and refreshing. We are free from the Hindrances and from
every sort of restlessness, like a white cloth that's spotlessly
clean. When the mind is clear in this way, it feels nothing but
comfort and fullness, which gives rise to a sense of
satisfaction, termed 'rapture.'
5. //Passaddhi-sambojjhanga//: The breath is solid throughout
the body. The elements are at peace, and so is the mind.
Nothing feels troublesome or aroused.
6. //Samadhi-sambojjhanga//: The breath is firm, steady, and
unwavering. The mind takes a firm stance in a single
7. //Upekkha-sambojjhanga//: When body, feelings, mind, and
mental qualities are fully snug with one another in these two
types of breath -- when the mind stays with these aspects of the
breath -- it doesn't have to fashion anything at all. It
doesn't latch onto any manifestation of good or bad. Neutral
and unperturbed, it doesn't approve or disapprove of anything.
* * *
When mindfulness saturates the body the way flame saturates every
thread in the mantle of a Coleman lantern, the elements throughout the
body work together like a group of people working together on a job:
Each person helps a little here and there, and in no time at all --
almost effortlessly -- the job is done. Just as the mantle of a
Coleman lantern whose every thread is soaked in flame becomes light,
white, and dazzling, so if you soak your mind in mindfulness until
it's aware of the entire body, both the body and mind become buoyant.
When you think using the power of mindfulness, your sense of the body
will immediately become thoroughly bright, helping to develop both
body and mind. You'll be able to sit or stand for long periods of
time without getting tired, to walk for great distances without
getting fatigued, to go for unusually long periods of time on just a
little food without getting hungry, or to go without food and sleep
altogether for several days running without losing energy.
As for the heart, it will become pure, open, and free from blemish.
The mind will become bright, energetic, and strong. //Saddha-balam//:
Your conviction will run like a car running without stop along the
road. //Viriya-balam//: Your persistence will accelerate and advance.
//Sati-balam//: Your mindfulness will be robust and vigorous.
//Samadhi-balam//: Your concentration will become unwavering and
resilient. No activity will be able to kill it. In other words, no
matter what you're doing -- sitting, standing, walking, talking,
whatever -- as soon as you think of practicing concentration, your
mind will immediately be centered. Whenever you want it, just think
of it and you have it. When your concentration is this powerful,
insight meditation is no problem. //Panna-balam//: Your discernment
will be like a double-edged sword: Your discernment of what's outside
will be sharp; your discernment of what's inside will be sharp.
When these five strengths appear in the heart, the heart will be
fully mature. Your conviction, persistence, mindfulness,
concentration, and discernment will all be mature and pre-eminent in
their own spheres. It's the nature of mature adults that they
cooperate. When they work together on a job, they finish it. So it
is when you have these five adults working together for you: You'll
be able to complete any task. Your mind will have the power to
demolish every defilement in the heart, just as a nuclear bomb can
demolish anything anywhere in the world.
* * *
When your concentration has strength, it gives rise to discernment:
the ability to see stress, its cause, its disbanding, and the Path to
its disbanding, all clearly within the breath. We can explain this as
follows: The in-and-out breath is stress -- the in-breath the stress
of arising, the out-breath the stress of passing away. Not being
aware of the breath as it goes in and out, not knowing the
characteristics of the breath: This is the cause of stress. Knowing
when the breath is coming in, knowing when it's going out, knowing its
characteristics clearly -- i.e., keeping your views in line with the
truth of the breath: This is Right View, part of the Noble Path.
Knowing which ways of breathing are uncomfortable, knowing how to vary
the breath; knowing, 'That way of breathing is uncomfortable; we'll
have to breathe like this in order to feel at ease': This is Right
Intention. The mental factors that think about and properly evaluate
all aspects of the breath are Right Speech. Knowing various ways of
improving the breath; breathing, for example, in long and out long, in
short and out short, in short and out long, in long and out short,
until you come across the breath that's most comfortable for you: This
is Right Action. Knowing how to use the breath to purify the blood,
how to let this purified blood nourish the heart muscles, how to
adjust the breath so that it eases the body and soothes the mind, how
to breathe so that you feel full and refreshed in body and mind: This
is Right Livelihood. Trying to adjust the breath so that it comforts
the body and mind, and to keep trying as long as you aren't fully at
ease: This is Right Effort. Being mindful of the in-and-out breath
at all times, knowing the various aspects of the breath -- the
up-flowing breath, the down-flowing breath, the breath in the stomach,
the breath in the intestines, the breath flowing along the muscles and
out to every pore -- keeping track of these things with every
in-and-out breath: This is Right Mindfulness. A mind intent only on
matters of the breath, not pulling any other objects in to interfere,
until the breath is refined, giving rise to fixed absorption and then
liberating insight: This is Right Concentration.
When all of these aspects of the Noble Path -- virtue,
concentration, and discernment -- are brought together fully mature
within the heart, you gain insight into all aspects of the breath,
knowing that, 'Breathing this way gives rise to good mental states;
breathing that way gives rise to bad mental states.' You let go of the
factors -- i.e., the breath in all its aspects -- that fashion the
body, the factors that fashion speech, the factors that fashion the
mind, whether good or bad, letting them be as they truly are, in line
with their own inherent nature: This is the disbanding of stress.
* * * * * * * *
Abhidhamma (Pitaka): The third of the three collections forming the
Pali Canon, composed of systematic treatises based on lists of
categories drawn from the Buddha's teachings.
Apaya: States of deprivation, i.e., the four lower realms of
existence: rebirth in hell, as a hungry ghost, as an angry demon,
or as a common animal. In Buddhism, none of these states are
regarded as eternal conditions.
Arahant: A 'worthy one' or 'pure one,' i.e., a person whose heart no
longer has any defilements and is thus not destined for further
rebirth. A title for the Buddha and the highest level of his Noble
Ariyadhana: 'Noble Wealth,' i.e., qualities that serve as 'capital'
in the quest for liberation: conviction, virtue, conscience, fear
of evil, erudition, generosity, and discernment.
Ayatana: Sense media, i.e., the six senses (the five physical senses
plus the intellect) and their corresponding objects.
Bhavanga (-pada, -citta): The mind's underlying preoccupation or
resting state, which determines its state of being and to which it
reverts in between its responses to stimuli.
Brahma: An inhabitant of the higher heavens (of form and
formlessness), a position earned -- but not forever -- through the
cultivation of virtue and meditative absorption (jhana), along with
the attitudes of limitless love, compassion, appreciation, and
Dhamma: Event; phenomenon; the way things are in and of themselves;
quality -- both in its neutral and in its positive senses: (1) the
basic qualities into which natural phenomena -- mental and physical
-- can be analyzed; the terms in which things are known by the sense
of ideation. Also, any teaching that analyzes phenomena into their
basic terms. This is one sense in which the Buddha's doctrine is
his 'Dhamma.' (2) The quality of one's heart and mind, as manifest
by the rectitude, fairness, compassion, composure, discernment,
etc., revealed in one's actions. The manifestations can be
enumerated and prescribed as principles (again, 'dhamma' -- another
sense in which the Buddha's doctrine is his Dhamma) that can then be
put into practice and developed as means of removing shoddiness from
the heart so that its genuine, unchanging quality can become fully
apparent from within: This is the Buddha's Dhamma in its ultimate
Dhatu: Element, property, potential. Basic forces that, when aroused
out of their latent state, cause activity on the physical or
psychological level. In traditional Thai physics, which is based on
the physics of the Pali Canon, the four dhatu of earth, water, fire,
and wind are said to permeate all matter in latent or potential
form. To become manifest, they have to be aroused. Thus, for
example, the act of starting a fire is explained as the arousal of
the fire-dhatu (//tejas//), which already exists in the air and in
the object to be ignited. Once this is 'seized,' it clings to the
fuel, and the object will be on fire. The fire will continue
burning as long as tejas has sustenance to cling to. When it runs
out of sustenance or is forced to let go, it will grow quiet --
returning to its normal, latent state -- and the individual fire
will go out.
On the level of the human body, diseases are explained as resulting
from the aggravation or imbalance of any of these four physical
properties. Diseases are classified by how they feel: Fevers are
attributed to the fire property, dizziness and faintness to the wind
property, constipation to the earth property, etc. Well-being is
defined as a state in which none of these properties is dominant. All
are quiet, unaroused, balanced and still.
There are a number of lists of dhatus given in the Pali Canon. The
six dhatus are the four physical properties plus space and
consciousness. The 18 dhatus are the six senses, their respective
objects, and the acts of consciousness associated with each.
Gotarabhu-nana: 'Change of lineage knowledge' -- the glimpse of
nibbana that changes one from an ordinary, run-of-the-mill person to
a Noble One. This is also classed as '//nana-dassana visuddhi//,'
purity of knowledge and vision.
Indra: King of the gods in the sensual heavens.
Indriya: Pre-eminent or dominating qualities. The 22 qualities that
can dominate consciousness are: the senses of vision, hearing,
smell, taste, touch, ideation; femininity, masculinity, life;
pleasure, pain, joy, sorrow, equanimity; conviction, persistence,
mindfulness, concentration, discernment; the realization that 'I
shall come to know the unknown,' final knowledge, the state of
Jhana: Absorption in a single object or preoccupation. //Rupa-jhana//
refers to absorption in a physical sensation; //arupa-jhana//, to
absorption in a mental notion or state. When Ajaan Lee uses the term
'jhana' by itself, he is usually referring to rupa-jhana.
Kamma: Acts of intention that result in states of being and birth.
Kammapatha: Ten guidelines for moral conduct -- not killing, not
stealing, not engaging in sexual misconduct, not lying, not speaking
divisively, not using coarse or vulgar language, not speaking idly,
not coveting, not harboring anger, holding right views.
Kasina: An object stared at with the purpose of fixing an image of it
in one's consciousness, the image then being manipulated to fill the
totality of one's awareness.
Kesa: Hair of the head; the first in the list of 32 parts of the body
used as a meditation theme for counteracting lust.
Khandha: Aggregate -- the component parts of sensory perception;
physical and mental phenomena as they are directly experienced:
//rupa// -- sensations, sense data; //vedana// -- feelings of
pleasure, pain, and indifference that result from the mind's
savoring of its objects; //sanna// -- labels, names, allusions;
//sankhara// thought-formations (see below); //vinnana// -- sensory
Nibbana: The 'unbinding' of the mind from sensations and mental acts,
preoccupations and suppositions. As this term is also used to refer
to the extinguishing of a fire, it carries the connotations of
stilling, cooling, and peace. (The use of the word 'unbinding' to
refer to the extinguishing of a fire is best understood in light of
the way fire was viewed at the time of the Buddha. See
Niramisa-sukha: Literally, 'un-raw' pleasure, or pleasure 'not of the
flesh.' The bliss and ease of nibbana, a pleasure independent of
sensations or mental acts.
Nirodha: Disbanding, disappearance, cessation. In the absolute
sense, this refers to the utter disbanding of stress and its causes.
In an applied sense, it can refer to the temporary and partial
suppression of defilement and stress attained in tranquility
meditation. The terms '//sankhata-lakkhana nirodha//' and
'//bhujissaka nirodha//' are used in this latter sense. The first
emphasizes that the 'disbanding' experienced in tranquillity is only
a fashioned semblance of the true thing; the second (literally,
bondsman-disbanding) emphasizes that this is a conditioned state,
dependent on the presence of the factors of jhana, in contrast to
the ultimate sense of nirodha (//asesa-viraga nirodha//, disbanding
with no trace of passion), which is total and unconditioned.
Nivarana: Hindrances; mental qualities that hinder the mind from
attaining concentration and discernment: sensual desire, ill will,
torpor & lethargy, restlessness & anxiety, and uncertainty.
Pali: The name of the most ancient recension of the Buddhist
scriptures now extant and -- by extension -- of the language in
which it was composed.
Patimokkha: The basic monastic code, composed of 227 rules.
Sabhava dhamma: Qualities and events that form the basic building
blocks of experience, viewed as they are in and of themselves.
Sambhavesin: This term is usually used to describe a being that is
seeking a place to be born; generally regarded as an abject state.
Here, Ajaan Lee uses the term to describe the mind when it is
searching for an object to fasten onto.
Sankhara: Fashioning -- the forces and factors that fashion things,
the process of fashioning, and the fashioned things that result. As
the fourth //khandha//, this refers to the act of fashioning
thoughts, urges, etc. within the mind. As a blanket term for all
five //khandhas//, it refers to all things, physical or
psychological, fashioned by nature.
Stupa: Originally, a tumulus or burial mound enshrining relics of the
Buddha or objects associated with his life. Over the centuries,
however, this has developed into the tall, spired monuments familiar
in temples in Thailand, Sri Lanka and Burma; and into the pagodas of
China, Korea and Japan.
Suttanta (Pitaka): The second of the three collections forming the
Pali Canon, composed of discourses and other literary pieces related
to the Dhamma.
Tejas: See 'dhatu.'
Vinaya (Pitaka): The first of the three collections forming the Pali
Canon, dealing with the disciplinary rules of the monastic order.
The Buddha's own name for the religion he founded was, 'this
Dhamma-Vinaya' -- this doctrine and discipline.
* * *
The translations in this book are based on the editions printed during
Ajaan Lee's lifetime that seem most definitive and complete. At
certain points, these editions differ from those currently available.
In particular, I was able to locate a copy of the essay, //Basic
Themes//, containing corrections in Ajaan Lee's own hand. These have
been incorporated in the translation.
If these translations are in any way inaccurate or misleading, I ask
forgiveness of the author and reader for having unwittingly stood in
their way. As for whatever may be accurate -- conducive to the aims
intended by the author -- I hope the reader will make the best use of
it, translating it a few steps further, into the heart, so as to
attain those aims.
-- The translator
Inquiries concerning this book may be addressed to: The Abbot, Metta
Forest Monastery, PO Box 1409, Valley Center, CA 92082.
//Sabbe satta sada hontu
Katam punnaphalam mayham
sabbe bhagi bhavantu te//.
May all living beings always live happily,
free from animosity.
May all share in the blessings
springing from the good I have done.