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Sila(1), samadhi(2) and panna(3) form the basic constituents of the teaching of the Buddha.

are the fundamental elements of his forty-five year teaching mission, during the course of his carika.
Do these three aspects constitute his unique contribution to human civilization? Are these elements of
his dispensation of Dhamma the keynotes for which he should be remembered? A close perusal of the
Tipitaka suggests not.
If we delve into the venerable past of India, we find that at the time of the Buddha and earlier, there
were other thinkers who believed in and propagated the concepts of sila, samadhi and panna,
although not systematically. For the harmonious wayfarer, these teachers usually recommended the
practice of various rites and rituals along with sila, samadhi and panna. Hence, these three were not
something identified and preached by Gotama the Buddha alone. We find references in Brahmajalasutta, Samannaphala-sutta(4), etc., that highlight the fact that there were sects which heavily
emphasized the practice of sila for the purification of physical and vocal actions.
There are other references which show that the concept and practice of samadhi was also not
something new, that it was known at the time as a method for quieting and controlling the mind. The
best illustration of this is the example of the bodhisatta Siddhattha Gotama who, before his
enlightenment, learned the deepest samadhis known at the time-the seventh and eighth jhanas-from
the teachers Alara Kalama and Uddhaka Ramaputta. This proves that the sphere of samadhi certainly
existed prior to the Buddha. It was not something new, discovered by him.
Neither was the concept of panna something totally new. Even at that time panna, in its precise
definition, meant seeing things as impermanent (anicca), as a source of suffering (dukkha), and
substanceless (anatta). There are accounts which document the fact that, among at least some of the
Buddha's contemporaries, the concepts of anicca, dukkha and anatta were accepted. One such sutta
that illustrates this is the Bahiya-sutta of Samyutta-nikaya. It records an encounter between Buddha
and Bahiya, a wanderer in search of a spiritual path. Although he was not one of Buddha's disciples,
Bahiya asked him for guidance in his search.
The Buddha responded by questioning him, as follows:
Tam kim mannasi, Bahiya, cakkhu niccam va aniccam va ti?
Aniccam, bhante.
Yam pananiccam dukkham va tam sukham va ti?
Dukkham, bhante.
Yam pananiccam dukkham viparinama-dhammam kallam nu tam samanupassitum etam mama,
eso'hamasmi, eso me atta ti?
No h'etam bhante.
What do you believe, Bahiya: is the eye permanent or impermanent?
Impermanent, sir.
That which is impermanent, is it a cause of suffering or of happiness?
Of suffering, sir.
Now is it fitting to regard what is impermanent, a cause of suffering, by nature changeable as being
"mine", being "I", being one's self?
Surely not, sir.
The Buddha further questioned Bahiya about visual objects, eye consciousness and eye contact, etc.
In each case, this person agreed that these were impermanent, a cause of suffering and
substanceless. He did not claim to be a follower of the teaching of the Buddha, yet he accepted the
concepts of anicca, dukkha and anatta. The sutta thus documents that these ideas, which we might
now regard as having been unknown outside the Buddha's teachings, were indeed contemporaneous.
Then what was the Buddha's unique contribution in this regard? The explanation, of course, is that for
Bahiya and others like him, the concepts of impermanence, suffering and substancelessness were
simply beliefs. They were merely opinions, adopted only in theory-what in Pali is called manna (mere
acceptance). The Buddha showed a way to go beyond mere beliefs or philosophies, a way to directly

experience one's own nature as impermanent, suffering and substanceless. That is why in the sutta,
the Buddha continued:
Evam passam, Bahiya, sutava ariya-savako cakkhusmim pi nibbindati, rupesu pi nibbindati,
cakkhuvinnane pi nibbindati, cakkhusamphasse pi nibbindati... nibbindam virajjati, viraga vimucati,
vimuttasmim vimuttamiti nanam hoti.(6)
Seeing this, Bahiya, the well-instructed noble disciple becomes satiated with eye, visual object, eye
consciousness, eye contact... Being satiated, he does not have passion for them. Being passionless, he
is set free. In this freedom arises the realization that he is liberated.
From this passage it becomes clear that the Buddha made a sharp distinction between knowing by
hearsay and knowing from personal insight. One may be a sutava possessing sutamaya-panna-that
is, the wisdom that arises from listening to others, from being instructed by others or by reading, etc.
Having heard the truth, one accepts it out of faith and devotion. Or one may accept the truth at the
intellectual level (cintamaya-panna). However, to accept the truth at either of these levels is
insufficient to liberate one from the cycle of suffering. To attain final liberation, one must witness the
truth for oneself, must experience it directly within oneself, by the development of bhavanamayapanna.
Bhavanamaya-panna is the wisdom obtained by meditation, the direct experience that develops in
anyone who practises it. This development of insight is also called vipassana-bhavana (Vipassana
meditation). The practice of Vipassana develops an inner realization of the truth. The meditator makes
right effort and thereby realizes for himself that everything in the world is transitory, a source of
suffering, and essenceless. This insight is not the mere acceptance of what someone else has said, nor
the product of deductive reasoning. It is, rather, the direct comprehension of the realities of anicca,
dukkha, and anatta.
To develop this comprehensive bhavanamaya-panna, the technique of Vipassana is essential. It is
through the observation of vedana (bodily sensations) that the totality of our nature manifests itself as
pancakkhandha (the five aggregates). It is through vedana that we actually experience all
phenomena. As the Atthasalini states:
Ya vedeti ti vedana, sa vediyati lakkhana, anubhavanarasa...(7)
That which feels the objects is vedana; its characteristic is to experience, its function is to realize the
It is only through vedana that we can directly experience our true nature and realize its actual reality
of arising and passing away. Moreover, vedana is present with every phenomenon. As the Buddha
Vedana samosarana sabbe dhamma.(8)
All the phenomena one experiences are accompanied by sensation.
Therefore, the specific tool that a Vipassana meditator uses to develop experiential wisdom
is bodily sensation. By observing sensations objectively throughout the body, the
practitioner realizes that they all have the basic nature of arising and passing away
(uppadavaya dhammino)-that is, they are all anicca. Having experienced this fact, one
realizes that not only unpleasant sensations but also pleasant and neutral sensations are a
source of suffering. By observing the ephemeral nature of all sensations, the meditator
realizes how insubstantial they are: they are changing every moment. That which is
changing cannot be a source of happiness because a pleasant sensation which has arisen
will always pass away, resulting in dukkha due to our attachment to it. Moreover, these
sensations are beyond our control and arise regardless of our wishes; they cannot be said
to be "I" or "mine." They are anatta.

As one experiences vedana through the proper practice of Vipassana meditation, one comes out of the
delusion of nicca-sanna (perception of permanence) by the development of anicca-bodha or aniccavijja (the wisdom of impermanence). This is practised by observing the arising and passing away of
vedana. With anicca-bodha, the habit pattern of the mind changes as one develops upekkha
(equanimity) towards all the sensations.
In order to assess the unique contribution of the Buddha, we should note that many of his
contemporaries held the view that craving causes suffering, and that to remove suffering one must
abstain from the objects of craving. The Buddha tackled the problem in a different way. Having
learned to examine and investigate the deepest levels of his own mind, he made a profound discovery:
that between the external object and the mental reflex of craving, there is a missing linkvedana (sensation).
Whenever we encounter an object through the five physical senses or the sixth sense (the mind), a
sensation arises, and based on the sensation, tanha (craving and aversion) arises. If the sensation is
pleasant, we crave to prolong it; if it is unpleasant, we crave to be rid of it. It is in the chain of
Dependent Origination that the Buddha expressed his profound realization:
Salayatana-paccaya phassa
Phassa-paccaya vedana
Vedana-paccaya tanha.(9)
Dependent on the six sense doors, contact arises.
Dependent on contact, sensation arises.
Dependent on sensation, craving arises.
If we want to advance on the path of liberation we have to work at the level of vedana because it is
here that the rotation of the wheel of misery can be arrested. The turning of the bhava-cakka (wheel
of becoming) begins with vedana. Because of avijja (ignorance), we react to sensations, resulting in
the arising of craving and aversion: vedana paccaya tanha. This is the path which ignorant persons
(puthujjana) follow.
From the same juncture of vedana, the dhammacakka (wheel of Dhamma) can start to rotate. The
dukkha-nirodha-gamini-patipada (path of cessation of suffering) begins, characterized by vedananirodha, tanha-nirodho: the end of sensation and (therefore) the end of craving and aversion. This is
the path of anicca-vijja or panna, leading to the cessation of suffering. This is the Way which wise
persons (sapanna) follow. Having developed anicca-bodha by the practice of Vipassana, they cease to
react to vedana.
To emphasize the true implication and importance of vedana on the path of liberation, the Buddha
expressed the following as a regular refrain in the Brahmajala sutta of the Dighanikaya:
Vedananam samudayam ca atthangamam ca assadam ca adinavam ca nissaranam ca yathabhutam
viditva anupadavimutto, bhikkhave, Tathagato.(10)
Fully understanding, as they really are, the arising and passing away of sensations, the relishing of
them, their danger, their fading away,-the Tathagata is completely liberated.
The immediate cause for the arising of craving, and of suffering, is therefore not something outside of
us. It is, rather, the sensations that occur within us. To free ourselves from craving and suffering, we
must deal with this inner reality of sensations. This is the practical way to emerge from suffering. By
developing anicca-vijja (the wisdom of impermanence), we learn to cut the knots of our misery and
witness the true nature of Dhamma.
Vedana, then, is the cause of our bondage when it is ignored. When properly observed-by
understanding the Dhamma, the law of paticcasamuppada-it is the means to our liberation.

We may conclude by declaring that the entire teaching of the Buddha is ambrosial. The Dhamma he
taught illumines the Path by delineating the way to emerge from suffering into the liberation of
cessation of suffering. The Enlightened One outlined the practice of sila, samadhi and panna. But it is
the practice of Vipassana-the objective, experiential observation of the body sensations-which remains
as his unsurpassed contribution to human civilization. In reality this is the quintessence of his
(All references from Devanagari edition of Tipitaka published by Vipassana Research Institute
Publications, Igatpuri, India.)
1. Purification of bodily and vocal action.
2. Kusala cittassa ekaggata samadhi: one-pointedness of the moral consciousness.
3. Wisdom or insight.
4. Dighanikaya, vol I, sutta 1, para. 1, etc.; sutta 2, para. 150, etc.
5. Samyuttanikaya,vol II, vagga 4, para. 90.
6. Ibid.
7. Dhammasangani Atthakatha (Atthasalini) 1, Dhammuddesavaro
8. Anguttaranikaya, vol IV, Dasakanipata, para. 58.
9. Mahavagga, (Vinaya Pitaka) para. 1.
10. Dighanikaya, vol. I, sutta 1, para. 51, 59, 66, 70, 72, etc.

Why Vedana and What is Vedana?

By S. N. Goenka
Dhamma eradicates suffering and gives happiness. Who gives this happiness? It is not the Buddha but
the Dhamma, the knowledge of anicca (impermanence) within the body, which gives this happiness.
That is why you must meditate and be aware of anicca continually.
-Sayagyi U Ba Khin
I remember the first time I met Sayagyi U Ba Khin. I had gone with great attachment to my beliefs
and misgivings about the teaching of the Buddha. Sayagyi knew that I was a leader of the local Indian
Hindu community. He asked me, "Do you Hindus have any objection to sila-a life of morality, to
samadhi-mastery over the mind and to panna-wisdom to purify the mind?" How could I object! How
could anybody object! He continued, "Well, this is what the Buddha taught. This is all I am interested
in and this is all that I am going to teach you." Sayagyi's interpretation of Dhamma was universal and
non-sectarian. He had no problem in my being a Hindu.
My first Vipassana course introduced me to the teachings of the Buddha and transformed my life
forever. I was pulled like a magnet to his logical, practical, pragmatic, universal and non-sectarian
teaching. There was nothing objectionable in it. I had been hearing about and talking about the
eradication of defilements and the purification of mind. When I started observing sensations, initially
there were moments of doubt, "How is this going to help me?" But soon I realized that by observing
sensations, I am going to the root of the defilements. I was actually walking towards the goal of full
liberation. Whatever Sayagyi taught me was not merely to develop faith or to satisfy the intellect,
though both are important. He taught me the way to know the truth at the experiential level. If
anybody had tried to convince me about the teaching of the Buddha by intellectual discussion, logic or
argument, I would not have been convinced as I was fully satisfied with my own beliefs. What
convinced me and gave me here-and-now results was the experience of the truth through bodily
sensations. This tangible tool gave me the confidence that I could indeed become sthitaprajna
(thitapanno) which is the cherished goal of every Hindu.
The more I practised, the more I was convinced that the Buddha was the foremost scientist of mind

and matter, the foremost analyst of the truth about suffering and its eradication. And what makes him
a peerless scientist is the discovery that tanhatanha (trsnatrsna, craving) arises in response to
vedana. I had studied the teachings of the Indian spiritual teachers before and after the Buddha who
also accept tanha as the cause of misery, but for them tanha arises because of the sense objects only.
They miss the most important link: not one of them discusses vedana and its relation to tanha. They
always pronounce sense objects to be the cause of tanhatanha. Tanha is craving. Craving for
continuing or acquiring that which is pleasant and craving to get rid of or repelling that which is
unpleasant. Therefore tanha actually means both craving and aversion.
The discovery of the Buddha, that the real cause of tanha lies in vedana, is the unparalleled gift of the
Buddha to humanity. With this one discovery he gave us the key to open the door of liberation within
ourselves. Others proclaimed salayatana paccaya tanha; the Buddha discovered and disclosed that
vedana paccaya tanha, which means that defilements arise at the level of vedana and in response to
vedana. It is logical that if tanha arises in response to vedana, any endeavour to reach the root of
tanha and to eradicate tanha must include the understanding of vedana, the experience of it and the
knowledge of how it causes craving and aversion, and the wisdom to know how it can be used for the
eradication of tanha.
Samahito sampajano, sato Buddhassa savako;
vedana ca pajanati, vedanananca sambhavam.
Yattha ceta nirujjhanti, magganca khayagaminam;
vedananam khaya bhikkhu, nicchatonicchato parinibbuto'ti.1
A follower of the Buddha, with concentration, awareness and constant thorough understanding of
impermanence, knows with wisdom the sensations, their arising, their cessation and the path leading
to their end.
A meditator who has reached the end (has experienced the entire range) of sensations (and has gone
beyond) is freed from craving, is fully liberated.
This is why the Buddha practised and taught the meditation of awareness of mind and matter (nama
and rupa). RupaRupa includes kaya (body) and vedana is felt on kaya. NamaNama includes cittacitta
(consciousness) and the dhammasdhammas (mental concomitants) arising on it.
Vedana is also a cetasikacetasika (mental concomitant). When the Buddha says, sabbe dhamma
vedana samosaranasabbe dhamma vedana samosarana, it means that the experience of all mental
concomitants includes and is inseparable from vedana. Hence according to my understanding of the
teaching of the Buddha, not only do kayanupassanakayanupassana and
vedananupassanavedananupassana involve the awareness of vedana but vedana also forms an
integral part of dhammanupassanadhammanupassana and cittanupassanacittanupassana. A meditator
whether practising kayanupassana or vedananupassana or cittanupassana or dhammanupassana,
continues to be aware of vedana. He realizes the phenomenon of arising
(samudayadhammanupassisamudayadhammanupassi) and the phenomenon of passing away
(vayadhammanupassivayadhammanupassi) by maintaining awareness of vedana with the
understanding of its impermanent nature. Thus he does not allow tanha to arise in response to
vedana: He responds neither with tanha of craving towards a pleasant sensation nor with tanha of
aversion towards an unpleasant sensation. A meditator maintains upekkha (equanimity) based on
understanding of anicca (impermanence).
My journey within clearly showed me that a behaviour pattern is formed in the darkness of ignorance
where one keeps reacting with craving and aversion, knowingly or unknowingly, towards bodily
sensations. Thus, one becomes a slave of one's behaviour pattern and keeps reacting to sensations at
the deepest level. The anusaya kilesaanusaya kilesa are sleeping volcanos, the latent behaviour
patterns, of blind reaction to sensations. The Buddha's discovery helps a meditator to come out of this
blind behaviour pattern. Among the many meditation techniques of India and other parts of the world
that I have come across or have heard about, there is none that goes to the root cause of the
defilements of craving and aversion and eradicates them. In no other technique is the way to eradicate

even the latent tendencies of craving, aversion and ignorance so clearly spelled out.
"Sukhaya, bhikkhave, vedanaya raganusayo pahatabbo, dukkhaya vedanaya patighanusayo
pahatabbo, adukkhamasukhaya vedanaya avijjanusayo pahatabbo."2
Eradicate the latent tendency of craving using pleasant sensations (by equanimous observation of the
pleasant sensations understanding their changing nature), eradicate latent tendency of aversion using
unpleasant sensations and eradicate the latent tendency of ignorance using neutral sensations.
I realized this to be a unique contribution of the Buddha to humanity. The question that arises now is
what do we call vedana? It is clear from the words of the Buddha that vedana is one of the four
aggregates of mind (sanna, sankhara and vinnana being the other three) and that it plays a vital role
in liberation from misery. The Buddha gave importance to the vedana that one feels on the body. The
vedana that one feels on the body is experienced by the vedana khandha (feeling aggregate) of nama,
rather, it is the vedana khandhavedana khandha of nama. Rupa (matter) in itself cannot experience
sensations arising on it. For the meditation of liberation from misery, bodily sensations are important.
This does not mean that mental feeling (somanassa and domanassa) is to be ignored; it continues
The tradition in which I drank the nectar of benevolent Dhamma that liberates one from all misery is
called the tradition of Ledi Sayadaw,tradition of Ledi Sayadaw which is actually the tradition of the
Buddha. This tradition gives all importance to the sensations that one feels on the body. When I took
my first course at the feet of Sayagyi U Ba Khin, I was extremely attracted to this unique aspect of
meditation. My first Vipassana course showed me that mere intellectual knowledge of the
impermanent nature of mind and matter phenomenon can purify only the intellect to some extent. It
does not change us at the depth of the mind where we remain slaves of our behaviour patterns and
keep on reacting in utter ignorance.
I benefited so much from this technique of meditation that I started reading the words of the Buddha
in accordance with my teacher's advice. I was also curious to find out why India lost this noble
teaching. I had been told from childhood that the Buddha incorporated good points from our tradition
in his teaching and then added delusion to it, and had not discovered anything new. My experience
turned out to be contrary to this belief. I found the Buddha's teaching to be very beneficial. This led to
a further exploration to find the truth about these statements. Reading the words of the Buddha
(Tipitaka) gave me so much joy! How wrong my earlier information turned out to be! It showed how
the Buddha's emphasis was on actual experience of the truth. How could a teaching so firmly
grounded in reality lead to delusions? I could detect no trace of falsehood on this path. The words
bhavito bahulikatobhavito bahulikato-know with your own experience and thus gain and multiply
knowledge occurs many times in Tipitaka. The Buddha said again and again, "jana, passa"-know
thyself, with your own experience. The actual experience of the truth, as it is, ensures that there are
no illusions or delusions, no imagination or any blind beliefs on this path. The words of the Buddha
also confirmed my experience that the physical, bodily sensations are of utmost importance to the art
of liberation from all suffering.
While describing dukkha it is said, "Katamanca, bhikkhave, dukkham? Yam kho, bhikkhave, kayikam
dukkham kayikam asatam kayasamphassajam dukkham asatam vedayitam, idam vuccati, bhikkhave,
"What now, O monks, is pain? If there is, O monks, any kind of bodily pain, any kind of bodily
unpleasantness or any kind of painful or unpleasant feeling as a result of bodily contact-this, O monks,
is called pain."
And while describing domanassadomanassa it is said, "Katamanca, bhikkhave, domanassam? Yam
kho, bhikkhave, cetasikam dukkham cetasikam asatam manosamphassajam dukkham asatam
vedayitam, idam vuccati, bhikkhave, domanassam."4
"What now, O monks, is grief? If there is, O monks, any kind of mental pain, any kind of mental

unpleasantness or any kind of painful or unpleasant feeling as a result of mental contact-this, O

monks, is called grief."
This again makes it clear that when the Buddha describes dukkha vedana, he is talking about bodily
The Buddha says in the Satipatthana Sutta: Atapi sampajano satima.
Atapi and satima are simple to understand but I had to search for the meaning of sampajano. I found
that it was clearly defined: SampajannaSampajanna is continuous clear comprehension and thorough
understanding of the impermanent nature of the physical and mental structure (particularly vedana).
Vedana is felt on the body but it is part of the mind and its observation means the observation of the
mind and matter phenomenon.
Kathanca, bhikkhave, bhikkhu sampajano hoti? Idha, bhikkhave, bhikkhuno vidita vedana uppajjanti,
vidita upatthahanti, vidita abbhattham gacchanti. Vidita vitakka uppajjanti, vidita upatthahanti, vidita
abbhattham gacchanti. Vidita sanna uppajjanti, vidita upatthahanti, vidita abbhattham gacchanti.
Evam kho, bhikkhave, bhikkhu sampajano hoti. Sato, bhikkhave, bhikkhu vihareyya sampajano. Ayam
vo amhakam anusasani'ti.5
And how, O monks, does a monk understand thoroughly? Here, monks, a monk knows sensations
arising in him, knows their persisting, and knows their passing away; he knows each initial application
of the mind on an object arising in him, knows its persisting and knows its passing away; he knows
perceptions arising in him, knows their persisting, and knows their passing away. This, meditators, is
how a meditator understands thoroughly. A monk should abide mindful and composed. This is our
instruction to you.
The words of the Buddha also clarify that vedana indicates sensations on the body:
Yathapi vata akase, vayanti vividha puthu;
puratthima pacchima capi, uttara atha dakkhina.
Saraja araja capi, sita unha ca ekada;
adhimatta paritta ca, puthu vayanti maluta.
Tathevimasmim kayasmim, samuppajjanti vedana;
sukhadukkhasamuppatti, adukkhamasukha ca ya.
Yato ca bhikkhu atapi, sampajannam na rincati;
tato so vedana sabba, parijanati pandito.
So vedana parinnaya, ditthe dhamme anasavo;
kayassa bheda dhammattho, sankhyam nopeti vedagu'ti.6
Through the sky blow many different winds, from east and west, from north and south, dust-laden and
dustless, cold as well as hot, fierce gales and gentle breezes-many winds blow. In the same way, in
this body, sensations arise, pleasant, unpleasant, and neutral. When a bhikkhu, practising ardently,
does not neglect his faculty of thorough understanding, then such a wise person fully comprehends all
sensations. And having fully comprehended them, within this very life he becomes freed from all
impurities. At his life's end, such a person, being established in Dhamma and understanding
sensations perfectly, attains the indescribable stage.
Similarly emphasising the fact that vedana manifests in the body, he saidSeyyathapi, bhikkhave, agantukagaram, tattha puratthimayapi disaya... pacchimayapi disaya...
uttarayapi disaya... dakkhinayapi disaya agantva vasam kappenti. Khattiyapi... brahmanapi...
vessapi... suddapi agantva vasam kappenti. Evameva kho, bhikkhave, imasmim kayasmim vividha
vedana uppajjanti. Sukhapi... dukkhapi... adukkhamasukhapi vedana uppajjati. Samisapi sukha...
samisapi dukkha... samisapi adukkhamasukha vedana uppajjati. Niramisapi sukha... niramisapi
dukkha... niramisapi adukkhamasukha vedana uppajjati'ti.7
Suppose, meditators, there is a public guest-house. People from the east, west, north, and south

come and dwell there. People who are Kshatriyas, Brahmins, Vaishya and Shudras come and dwell
there. In the same way, meditators, various sensations arise in this body, pleasant sensations,
unpleasant sensations and neutral sensations arise. Pleasant sensations with attachment, unpleasant
sensations with attachment, and neutral sensations with attachment arise. Likewise arise pleasant,
unpleasant, and neutral sensations without attachment.
I needed no further proof that the Buddha was referring to the physical, bodily sensations when he
described vedana! Not only did these exhortations of the Buddha clear all my doubts, they also made
me feel as if the Buddha himself was instructing me to give importance to the bodily sensations.
My revered teacher used to chant Tikapatthanatikapatthana regularly. I found it very inspiring. The
study of Tikapatthana reveals the clear and explicit guidance from the Buddha that bodily sensations
(kayikam sukham and kayikam dukkham) are the nearest strongly dependent relations to the
attainment of nibbana.
Pakatupanissayo-kayikam sukham kayikassa sukhassa, kayikassa dukkhassa, phalasamapattiya
upanissayapaccayena paccayo. Kayikam dukkham kayikassa sukhassa, kayikassa dukkhassa,
phalasamapattiya upanissayapaccayena paccayo.8
Pleasant bodily sensation is the cause for the arising of pleasant sensation of the body, unpleasant
sensation of the body, and attainment of fruition (nibbana) in relation to the strong dependent
condition. Unpleasant bodily sensation is the cause for the arising of pleasant sensation of the body,
unpleasant sensation of the body, and attainment of fruition (nibbana) in relation to the strong
dependent condition.
Pakatupanissayo-kayikam sukham upanissaya... vipassanam uppadeti, maggam uppadeti, abhinnam
uppadeti, samapattim uppadeti.9
Dependent on pleasant bodily sensations... Vipassana arises... Path arises... Knowledge arises...
attainment of (nibbana) arises.
Some of my friends insisted that vedana is a part of nama and hence it has no relation to the bodily
sensations. Differences of opinion may exist. But for me the entire Tipitaka bears testimony to the fact
that the bodily sensations are as much a part of vedana as mental feelings; rather, bodily sensations
are much more important in the Buddha's teaching. The Patthana gave an added incontrovertible
proof that bodily sensations are of utmost importance on the path of liberation. I have immensely
benefited from this and I continue to teach
Vipassana as I learnt it from my revered teacher, giving importance to bodily sensations.
Somanassa and domanassaare used for pleasant mental feelings and unpleasant mental feelings
respectively. Sukhasukha and dukkhadukkha are used in the broader sense of happiness and misery
but he also used them in the specific sense of bodily pleasant and unpleasant feelings.
Tisso ima, bhikkhave, vedana. Katama tisso? Sukha vedana, dukkha vedana, adukkhamasukha
vedana. Ima kho, bhikkhave, tisso vedana.10
There are these three types of bodily sensations. What are the three? Pleasant sensations, unpleasant
sensations and sensations that are neutral (neither pleasant nor unpleasant).
The Buddha always enumerated three types of vedana in the manner mentioned above. He included
somanassindriyam and domanassindriyam only when he enumerated five types of vedana. This
indicates the primacy of bodily sensations over mental feelings in the Buddha's teaching.
Katama ca, bhikkhave, tisso vedana? Sukha vedana, dukkha vedana, adukkhamasukha vedana-ima
vuccanti, bhikkhave, tisso vedana. Katama ca, bhikkhave, panca vedana? Sukhindriyam,
dukkhindriyam, somanassindriyam, domanassindriyam, upekkhindriyam-ima vuccanti, bhikkhave,
panca vedana.11

The Buddha has qualified vedana by sukha vedana and dukkha vedana when he talks about the
satipatthanas but never somanassa vedana or domanassa vedana in the context of sampajanna or
satipatthanas. In the entire Tipitaka there are only about a dozen places where vedana occurs
together with somanassa but there are hundreds of places where sukha or dukkha vedana is used,
particularly in the context of meditation of satipatthana. Thus, it is clear that vedana as a part of the
nama that is firmly rooted in kaya is what the Buddha wanted us to focus on when he talked about
meditation to eradicate suffering.
This is also the reason why brahmas from arupabrahmalokaarupabrahmaloka cannot practise
Vipassana and why the Buddha could not give Dhamma to his past teachers of arupa jhanas (seventh
and eighth jhanas/dhyanas). In the fifth to eighth jhanas,jhanas the mind is set free from the body
and thus there is no experience of vedana. Therefore, these brahmas lack rupa and cannot experience
body-sensations. Hence, the practice of the awareness of vedana is not possible for them and they
cannot walk on the path of liberation.
It is noteworthy that in practising samadhi, somanassa and domanassa disappear in the third jhana
but sukha and dukkha vedana disappear only in the fourth jhana. Adukkhamasukha
vedanaadukkhamasukha vedana remains even in the fourth jhana. From this, one may reasonably
conclude that bodily sensations give us a stronger and more continuous hold on reality, and thus, on
the root cause of tanha. One can clearly comprehend sensations and they offer a tangible tool to
attain one's own salvation.
I learnt this from my own experience using the technique taught by my teacher. With this background,
the words of the Buddha were so convincing and heartening. This path has given so much joy to me.
On my teacher's injunction, I started sharing this technique with others, in India and around the
world. When I share this technique of liberation with my students, I find that they also benefit by
working with sensations and understanding their true nature. The clear, practical and result-oriented
teaching of the Buddha inspires so much trust and confidence in me. It leaves no scope for any
imagination or blind faith.
Every now and then, someone comes and argues with me as to why I give so much importance to
bodily sensations. Very humbly I request him or her to come and give a trial to Vipassana meditation,
to experience and examine whether it is in accordance with the Buddha's teaching.
Let there be no doubt about the technique. I invite you: Let us all walk on the path shown to us by the
Buddha, the greatest scientist of mind and matter, the greatest physician of mind the world has ever
produced. Let our philosophical beliefs not become an obstacle for us. Let us make use of the
Buddha's discovery that vedana is the tool that will liberate us from our misery.
May all be happy, peaceful and liberated.
Notes: (All references VRI edition)
1. Samyutta Nikaya 2.4.249
2. Samyutta Nikaya 2.4.251
3. Digha Nikaya 2.393
4. Digha Nikaya 2.394
5. Samyutta Nikaya 3.5.401
6. Samyutta Nikaya 2.4.260
7. Samyutta Nikaya 2.4.262
8. Patthana 1.1.423
9. Patthana 1.1.423
10. Samyutta Nikaya 2.4.250
11. Samyutta Nikaya 2.4.270
Vipassana Research Institute

The Importance of Vedana and Sampajanna

Vipassana is one of India's most ancient techniques of meditation. Long lost to humanity, it was
rediscovered more than 2,500 years ago by Gotama the Buddha, and was taught by him as a
universal remedy for the universal truth of suffering. Though an integral part of the Indian spiritual
heritage, prior to the last 20 years, the technique had not been practised in India for centuries. As a
result, little research has been done on the theory and practice of Vipassana.
Vipassana Research Institute is committed to developing a deeper appreciation of the Buddha's
teaching, both at the theoretical (pariyatti) as well as the experiential (patipatti) level. It is for this
reason that the unique format of this seminar has been devised; ten days of experiential practice in
which to obtain a deeper understanding of the seminar's theme.
The Pali term vipassana means insight, to see things as they really are, not as they appear to be. Its
goal is complete liberation from suffering. To attain this goal, we must experience the truth of the
Buddha's teaching for ourselves, by ourselves. Mere faith in the Buddha, or intellectual appreciation of
the universal law-the Dhamma-is not enough to liberate one from the misery inherent in life.
The Buddha, out of his personal experience, found that suffering arises because of the mental habit of
craving (tanhatanha). This in itself was not a new discovery, but what was unique to his teaching was
that he found a practical way out of suffering. By exploring the depths of his mind, he realized that
between external objects and the mental reflex of craving, is a missing link-vedana-the feeling of body
Whenever we encounter an object through the five physical senses or the mind, a sensation arises,
and based on the sensation, craving arises. If the sensation is pleasant we crave to prolong it; if it is
unpleasant we crave to get rid of it. Therefore, the immediate cause for the arising of craving and of
suffering is not something outside, but rather the sensations that occur within us. To free ourselves,
we must deal with this inner reality.
Vedana is the meeting ground, the crossroads where mind and body interact, and where our true
nature is revealed in a vivid, tangible way. This is wisdom; the thorough understanding that all
sensations, all that one calls 'I', all that one is attached to, are arising to pass away. By objectively
observing this process, we develop equanimity towards change. We no longer crave for pleasant
sensations nor have aversion to unpleasant ones.
The Buddha called this wisdom sampajanna-the constant thorough understanding of impermanence.
By Vipassana one learns to develop the continuity of this understanding. The practice results in a
calm, balanced mind in the midst of all the ups and downs of life, and leads to liberation from
attachment, craving and suffering. This path is a true art of living that enables one to live a
wholesome, creative life. And due to its non-sectarian nature, people from all communities, religions,
castes and countries are able to derive great benefit from its application.

Vipassana Research Institute

The Four Noble Truths are the essence of the Buddha's teaching. In the Anguttara Nikaya, the Buddha
Vediyamanassa kho panaham bhikkhave, idam dukkham ti pannapemi, ayam dukkha-samudayo ti
pannapemi ayam dukkha-nirodho ti pannapemi, ayam dukkha-nirodha-gamini-patipada ti
To one who experiences sensations, meditators, I teach the truth of suffering, I teach the truth of the
arising of suffering, I teach the truth of the cessation of suffering and I teach the truth of the path
leading to the cessation of suffering.

In this passage the Buddha clearly states that the Four Noble Truths can be understood, realized and
practised only through the experience of vedana (sensations).
He further analysed the Noble Truths in the light of vedana by saying:
Yam kinci vedayitam, tam pi dukkhasmim.2
Whatever sensations one experiences, all are suffering.
Not only are dukkha vedana (unpleasant sensations) suffering, but sukha vedana (pleasant
sensations) and adukkhamasukha vedana (neutral sensation) are also suffering, because of their
impermanent nature. Arising and passing away, anicca (impermanence) is the characteristic of
vedana. Every pleasant sensation has a seed of dukkha in it because it passes away sooner or later.
We are so bound by ignorance that when a pleasant sensation arises, we react to it by developing
craving and clinging towards it, without realising its real nature of impermanence. This leads to
suffering: tanha dukkhassa sambhavamtanha dukkhassa sambhavam-craving is the origin of
Craving is not only the origin of suffering but suffering itself. As craving arises, suffering arises. The
Buddha elucidated the second of the Four Noble Truths not as tanha-paccaya dukkha but instead as
dukkha-samudayadukkha-samudaya. In other words, craving is not merely the precondition of
suffering; it is itself inseparable from suffering. The same emphasis is apparent in the statement tanha
dukkhassa sambhavam. Indeed, tanha and dukkha are sahajata (conascent). As soon as tanha arises,
one loses the balance of the mind, becomes agitated and experiences dukkha.
Similarly, when vedana arises and results in tanha, it is dukkha. Thus whenever the term vedana is
used in relation to the practice of Dhamma, it conveys the sense of dukkha. Even a neutral sensation
is dukkha if its impermanent nature is ignored. Therefore, not only for dukkha vedana but for sukha
vedana and adukkhamasukha vedana as well, the Buddha correctly used the word vedana as a
synonym for dukkha.
Emphasising this fact again in relation to the Four Noble Truths, the Buddha said in the Dvayatana
Sutta of the Suttanipata:
Yam kinci dukkham sambhoti sabbam vedanapaccaya ti, ayamekanupassana. Vedananam tveva
asesaviraganirodha natthi dukkhasssa sambhavo ti, ayam dutiyanupassana.4
Whatever suffering arises, it is because of sensations-this is the first anupassana (constant
observation). With the complete cessation of sensations, there is no further arising of suffering-this is
the second anupassana.
The first anupassana is the constant observation of vedana as dukkha. The second anupassana
consists of the reality which is beyond the field of vedana as well as beyond the field of phassa
(contact) and salayatana (the six sense doors). This is the stage of nirodha-samapattinirodhasamapatti of an arahant (fully liberated one), the experience of nibbana. By this second anupassana,
the meditator realizes the truth that in the field of nirodha-samapatti, there is no dukkha, because
there is no vedana. It is the field beyond the sphere of vedana.
The Buddha continues in the same sutta:
Sukham va yadi va dukkham, adukkhamasukham saha;
ajjhattam ca bahiddha ca, yam kinci atthi veditam.
Etam dukkham ti natvana mosadhammam palokinam;
phussa phussa vayam passam, evam tattha virajjati;
Vedananam khaya bhikkhu, nicchato parinibbuto'ti.5

Whatever sensations one experiences in the body, pleasant, unpleasant or neutral, inside or outside,
all are suffering, all are illusory, all are ephemeral. A meditator observes that wherever there is a
contact in the body, sensations pass away (as soon as they arise). Realizing this truth with the
extinction of sensations, the meditator is freed from craving, fully liberated.
A person fully established in this truth becomes liberated from the habit of craving and clinging
towards sensations and reaches the state where there is no more vedana (vedana-khayavedanakhaya). (This is the stage of nibbana reached in the second anupassana.) A meditator who has
experienced this state of arahatta-phalaarahata-phala becomes nicchato (freed from all desires). Such
a person becomes parinibbutaparinibbuta (totally liberated).
Therefore, to experience and understand dukkha-saccadukkha-sacca (suffering), samudayasaccasamudaya-sacca (its arising), nirodha-saccanirodha-sacca (its cessationcessation) and dukkhanirodha-gamini-patipada-saccadukkha-nirodha-gamini-patipada-sacca (the path leading to the
cessation of suffering), one has to work with sensations and realize the truth of vedana (vedanasaccavedana-sacca), the arising of vedana (vedana-samudaya-sacca), the cessation of vedana
(vedana-nirodha-sacca) and the path leading to the cessation of vedana (vedana-nirodha-gaminipatipada-sacca).
This process is clearly described in the Samadhi Sutta of the Vedana-samyutta:
Samahito sampajano, sato Buddhassa savako;
vedana ca pajanati, vedanananca sambhavam.
Yattha ceta nirujjhanti, magganca khayagaminam;
vedananam khaya bhikkhu, nicchatonicchato parinibbuto'ti.6
A follower of the Buddha, with concentration, awareness, and constant thorough understanding of
impermanence, knows with wisdom, sensations, their arising, their cessation and the path leading to
their end. A meditator who has reached the end (has experienced the entire range) of sensations (and
has gone beyond) is freed from craving, fully liberated.
The Buddha further says that the purpose of the practice of the ariyo atthangiko maggoariyo
atthangiko maggo (the Noble Eightfold Pathnoble eightfold path), is to understand vedana and reach
the state of vedana-nirodhavedana-nirodha (cessation of sensationscessation of sensations):
Tisso ima, bhikkhave, vedana. Katama tisso? Sukha vedana, dukkha vedana, adukkamasukha vedana.
Ima kho, bhikkhave, tisso vedana. Imasam kho, bhikkhave, tissannam vedananam abhinnaya
parinnaya parikkhayaya pahanaya... ayam ariyo atthangiko maggo bhavetabbo'ti.7
There are these three types of bodily sensations. What are the three? Pleasant sensations, unpleasant
sensations, and neutral sensations. Meditators, the Noble Eightfold Path should be practised for the
complete knowledge, the full realisation, the gradual eradication and the abandonment of these three
bodily sensations.
Sensations (vedana) are the tools by which we can practise the Four Noble Truths and the Noble
Eightfold Path; and by realising the characteristic of anicca-bodhaanicca-bodha (impermanence), we
free ourselves from the bonds of avijja and tanha and penetrate to the ultimate truth:
nibbananibbana, freedom from suffering, a state which is beyond the field of vedana, beyond the field
of nama-rupa (mind and matter).
Notes: (All references VRI edition)
1. Anguttara Nikaya 1.3.62
2. Majjhima Nikaya 3.299
3. Suttanipata 746
4. Ibid. 383
5. Loc. Cit 743 - 744
6. Samyutta Nikaya 2.4.249
7. Ibid. 2.4.250

The Significance of Vedana in Vipassana

Vipassana Research Institute
Vedana (sensations) are of diverse types (vividha)1, and are experienced every moment within the
body. Broadly speaking, however, there are three kinds-pleasant (sukhasukha), unpleasant
(dukkhadukkha), and neutral (adukkhamasukhaadukkhamasukha). The sensations arise within the
body as a result of contact (phassaphassa) and sooner or later pass away.2
The experience of painful contact within the body results in an unpleasant sensation that is
unpalatable, distressful, painful, sorrowful, and an affliction. Faced with such an experience, an
ordinary person becomes distressed, disturbed and unbalanced. When the pain is intense, he weeps,
laments, cries, falls into despair and becomes deluded.3 Experiencing an unpleasant sensation, he
desperately makes every possible effort to get rid of it, to pull himself out of it. He musters his will to
free himself as quickly as possible. Because of this bodily pain and affliction, he becomes unhappy,
restless, worried, disturbed and mentally distressed. He is thus miserable and troubled, both bodily
and mentally, as if pierced by two arrows at the same time.4 This is due to his attachment to the
sensations.5 He is ignorant, not knowing their true nature and hence is unable to have a dispassionate
attitude towards them. He makes every effort to repel the cause of his pain. He does so because of
the latent tendency of repugnance (patighanusaya) so deeply rooted in him. He fails to understand
that this tendency (anusaya) is a defilement. Instead, he multiplies and perpetuates it. He is carried
away by this anusayaanusaya and continues to flow with it.6
Even while striving to get over the unpleasant sensation, he indulges himself in craving for imaginary
situations where there is no unpleasant sensation whatsoever. He starts enjoying this imaginary state
and thereby develops lust for it. What a pity that an ignorant person though distressed by his
unpleasant sensation also delights in and craves for the sensual desire (kamasukhakamasukha) that
he has created in his mind.7 Why can he not maintain a balanced, dispassionate state of mind when
experiencing an unpleasant sensation? He is unable to do so because he becomes attached to the
sensation and is overpowered by it. Out of ignorance, he does not comprehend the true transitory
nature (anicca) of the sensation. He does not realize its arising (samudaya), its passing away
(atthangama), the relishing of it (assada), the danger in it (adinava) or the escape from it (nissarana).
He is further unaware of his anusaya (tendency of repugnance) which he, out of ignorance, is also
multiplying. Such an ignorant person is not only attached to the unpleasant sensation, he is also
bound up with all types of sensations, and therefore, with all the miseries in the world-birth, decay
and death, and so on.8
When a pleasant contact arises in the body, an ignorant person experiences it as pleasant, as it
apparently is. Not comprehending its true nature, he becomes involved and attached and starts taking
pleasure in it.9 He does not understand that the pleasant sensation that has arisen due to bodily
contact is transitory, ephemeral, impermanent, and sooner or later is bound to pass away. Being
ignorant of it, he tends to develop craving for its continuance. He is also unaware of his dormant
tendency of lust (raganusaya), the deep-rooted defilement in him. Because of his attachment,10 he
keeps increasing his craving and continues to flow with it.11 Not understanding the true nature of a
pleasant sensation as it really is-the arising of it (samudaya), the passing away of it (atthangama),
the relishing of it (assada), the danger in it (adinava) or the escape from it (nissarana)-he is attached
to it, and thus, is subject to lamentation and sorrow.
There arise situations in which an ordinary person experiences neither pleasant nor unpleasant
sensations (adukkhamasukha vedana) and is delighted and satisfied with this. Such an attitude
indicates his avijja (ignorance), as he does not know that this experience is also transitory, ephemeral
and still within the sphere of nama-rupa (mind and matter). Being unaware of the dormant tendency
of ignorance (avijjanusaya) within him, he acts in such a way as to multiply it, and continues to flow
with it. He is deluded12 and therefore falls into despair and becomes unhappy.

Both an ordinary person and a well-trained Vipassana meditator, who has reached the stage of
saintliness, can experience the same sensations in the body. But there is a vast difference in their
comprehension and outlook. As stated above, since a puthujjana (ignorant person) is the victim of the
anusayas (dormant tendencies), he immediately starts reacting blindly when he experiences any
sensation arising in the body. Being unaware of the true nature of these sensations, he remains
attached (samyutta) to them. In contrast, an ariyasavaka (noble disciple) practises by minutely
observing the impermanence of the sensations (aniccanupassi viharatianiccanupassi viharati), their
passing away (vayanupassi viharativayanupassi viharati). He does not cling to them (viraganupassi
viharativiraganupassi viharati), he observes the ceasing of them (nirodhanupassi
viharatinirodhanupassi viharati), and thus, emerges from them (patinissagganupassi
viharatipatinissagganupassi viharati).13 In this way, he eradicates all the latent tendencies (anusaya)
which can no longer defile him. When he experiences an unpleasant sensation, he is not disturbed by
it. He observes it as a wound on his body, (sallato), keeps a dispassionate attitude towards it and
remains unattached to it.14 He maintains a balanced state of mind and is not disturbed mentally.15
Further, if he experiences a pleasant sensation, he does not take any pleasure in it. He fully
understands its true nature of anicca, and so develops no lust for it, which would eventually lead to
misery. Thus he keeps himself detached from the sensations.16 He knows correctly that sooner or
later they will pass away. He has no tendency towards lust (raganusaya) in him. When he experiences
a neutral sensation of peace and tranquillity of mind, he does not get deluded by it. Rather, he keeps
himself detached. A developed Vipassana student fully understands that this tranquil and peaceful
state of mind is not the final stage. It too is impermanent (anicca) and, like the other sensations, is in
the field of nama-rupa. He does not take any delight in it and keeps a balanced, dispassionate state of
mind. He is always mindful and attentive (sato) and keeps a constant understanding of anicca
(sampajano) towards his sensations. Since his avijjanusaya (tendency of ignorance) is destroyed, he
truly knows the arising (samudaya) and passing away of it (atthangama), the relishing of it (assada),
danger in it (adinava) and the escape (nissarana) from the sensations, it is saidSamahito sampajano, sato Buddhassa savako;
Vedana ca pajanati, vedanananca sambhavam.
Yattha ceta nirujjhanti, magganca khayagaminam;
Vedananam khaya bhikkhu, nicchatonicchato parinibbuto'ti.17
A follower of the Buddha, with concentration, awareness and constant thorough understanding of
impermanence, knows with wisdom the sensations, their arising, their cessation and the path leading
to their end. A meditator who has reached the end (has experienced the entire range) of sensations
(and has gone beyond) is freed from craving, fully liberated.
This is the main aim of Vipassana and the ultimate purpose of this practice. This is the consummation
of brahmacariya (The Path of Truth). The Buddha praises a well-trained practitioner who has perfectly
understood the true nature of sensations and is not attached to them. He saysNa vedanam vedayati sapanno, sukham pi dukkham pi bahussuto pi;
ayam ca dhirassa puthujjanena, maha viseso kusalassa hoti.
Sankhatadhammassa bahussutassa, vipassato lokamimam param ca;
itthassa dhamma na mathenti cittam, anitthato no patighatameti.18
A wise, well-trained practitioner is not afflicted (mentally) either experiencing a pleasant or unpleasant
sensation (or otherwise). This is the vast difference between an ordinary person and a skilful, wise
personwise person (panditapandita). For he who has mastered the Truth, is well-trained and has
correctly viewed this world and beyond, neither desirable things churn in his mind, nor do undesirable
ones harm him.
The practice of Vipassana is fulfilled only when a practitioner comes to realize perfectly the true
transitory nature of sensations and remains ever mindful (sato) with constant thorough understanding
(sampajano) of them. This is the ultimate aim of Vipassana and this is the crux of the practice.

Notes: (All references VRI edition)

1. Samyutta Nikaya 2.4.260
2. Ibid. 2.4.252, Saririkaya vedanaya. Also Ibid. 2.4.258, Vedana phassaja phassamulaka,
phassanidana, phassapaccaya.
3. Ibid. 2.4.254, Sammoham apajjati.
4. Ibid.2.4.254, So dvisallena vedanam vedayati... So dve vedana vedayati kayikam ca cetasikam ca.
5. Loc. cit., Sannutto hoti.
6. Loc. cit., Dukkhaya vedanaya patighavantam, yo dukkhaya vedanaya patighanusayo so anuseti.
7. Loc. cit., So dukkhaya vedanaya phuttho samano kamasukham abhinandati.
8. Loc. cit., Dukkham ce vedanam vedayati sannutto nam vedayati. Assutava puthujjano sannutto
jatiya jaraya maranena sokehi...
9. Loc. cit., Sannutta hoti... abhinandati.
10. Loc. cit., Sukham ce vedanam, vedayati, sannutto nam vedayati.
11. Loc. cit., Yo sukhaya vedanaya raganusayo, so anuseti.
12. Ibid 2.4.252, Sammoham apajjati.
13. Samyutta Nikaya 2.4.255-256, Pathamagelanna-Sutta and Dutiyagelanna-Sutta.
14. Ibid. 2.4.254, visannutto nam vedayati.
15. Ibid. 2.4.254, vedayati, kayikam, na cetasikam.
16. Ibid. 2.4.254, visannutto nam vedayati.
17. Ibid. 2.4.249
18. Ibid. 2.4.254

Relevance of Vedana to Bhavana-maya Panna

Vipassana Research Institute
The Pali term bhavana-maya panna means experiential wisdom. Bhavanabhavana1 is meditation
through which wisdom (panna) is cultivated. In order to understand the essence of the term bhavanamaya panna and its relevance to vedana (sensation), we first need to understand the meaning of the
term panna. Panna is derived from the root 'na' which means 'to know', prefixed by 'pa' meaning
'correctly'.2 Thus, the literal English translation of the word panna is 'to know correctly'. Commonly
used equivalents are such words as 'insight', 'knowledge' or 'wisdom'. All these convey aspects of
panna, but, as with all Pali terms, no translation corresponds exactly.
In the ancient texts, panna is defined more precisely as yatha-bhutam-nana-dassanamyatha-bhutanana-dassanam,3 seeing things as they are, not as they appear to be. That is, understanding the true
nature of anicca (impermanence), dukkha (suffering) and anatta (essencelessness) in all things. This
realisation leads to the ultimate truth of nibbana. It may also be described as pakarena janati'ti
pannapakarena janati ti panna-because it is understood through different angles it is panna. The
Visuddhimagga elaborates on this explaining that the characteristic of panna is to penetrate the true
nature of things. Its function is to dispel the darkness of ignorance, and prevent one from becoming
bewildered by its manifestation. Its immediate cause is concentration (samadhi). Hence the words 'He
whose mind is concentrated knows and sees things according to reality'.4
The texts mention three types of panna5-suta-maya pannasuta-maya panna, cinta-maya pannacintamaya panna and bhavana-mayapanna. Suta-mayapanna is wisdom obtained from listening to others,
from being instructed by others about impermanence, suffering and essencelessness. It may also
develop from reading sacred texts.6 This type of panna is clearly dependent on an external source.
Thus, suta-mayapanna consists of learning which has been gained by listening to others (parato sutva
patilabhati).7 Such wisdom is parokkha (inferred knowledge). This may inspire one to tread on the
path of Dhamma, but in itself cannot lead to the attainment of liberation.
Cinta-maya panna is the wisdom obtained from one's own thinking, not just from hearing others
(parato asutva patilabhati).8 It is the understanding of impermanence, suffering and essencelessness,

from what one has grasped by the means of one's own intellect. It is the process of intellectually
analyzing something to see whether it is logical and rational. Having gone through such a process, one
can then accept a teaching intellectually. One may thereby become knowledgeable about the theory of
Dhamma, and may be able to explain it to others. One may even be able to help others realize the
fact of anicca, dukkha and anatta, but still one cannot obtain liberation for oneself. On the contrary,
there is a danger that one may accumulate more mental defilements by developing ego since one
lacks the direct experience of wisdom.
Sometimes we find in the texts a change in the order of suta-maya panna and cinta-maya panna. At
times cinta-maya panna is mentioned first, followed by suta-maya panna and bhavana-maya panna.
At times, suta-maya panna is followed by cinta-maya panna and bhavana-maya panna. But in both
cases, bhavana-maya panna comes at the end and is of prime importance for the realisation of truth.
It does not make any difference in which order we find the first two. Initially a person may listen to
the Dhamma from an outside source- suta-maya panna, and then develop cinta-maya panna by
rationally thinking about it, trying to understand anicca, dukkha and anatta intellectually, and thereby
develop yoniso manasikara (right thinking). Or one may start with cinta-maya panna, one's own
intellectual understanding, by reflecting rationally on anicca, dukkha and anatta, and then, by listening
to others (suta-maya panna), one may confirm one's intellectual understanding. We should remember
that whichever of the two may come first, neither of them can give liberation. Liberation results only
from bhavana-maya panna.
Bhavana-maya pannabhavana-maya panna is the wisdom obtained by meditation-the wisdom that
comes from the direct experience of the truth. This development of insight is also called vipassanabhavana (Vipassana meditation). The meditator makes right effort and so realizes for himself that
every thing in the world is transitory, a source of suffering, and essenceless. This insight is not the
mere acceptance of what someone else has said, nor the product of deductive reasoning. It is, rather,
the direct comprehension of the reality of anicca, dukkha and anatta.
To develop bhavana-maya panna, we must experience all phenomena and undestand their true
nature. And this is done through experiencing vedana, (bodily sensations), because it is through these
sensations that the totality of our nature manifests itself as pancakkhandha (the five aggregates).
The Visuddhimagga statesYa vedayati ti vedana, sa vedayita lakkhana, anubhavanarasa...9
That which feels the objects is vedana; its characteristic is to experience, its function is to realize the
It is through vedana that we experience all phenomena -that we can directly experience our true
nature of arising and passing away, that we experience anicca. Further, with every phenomenon,
vedana is present. As the Buddha saidVedana-samosarana sabbe dhamma.Vedana-samosarana sabbe dhamma.vedana-samosarana sabbe
Everything that arises in the mind is accompanied by sensation.
Therefore, the specific tool that a Vipassana meditator uses to develop experiential wisdom is bodily
sensation. By observing sensations objectively throughout the body, it is realized that they all have the
same nature of arising and passing away (uppada-vaya dhammino); the nature of impermanence.
Having experienced this fact, one realizes that not only unpleasant sensations, but pleasant as well as
neutral sensations are also a source of suffering. Further, by observing the ephemeral nature of all
sensations, the meditator realizes how they are so insubstantial. They are changing every moment.
That which is changing cannot be a source of happiness because an arisen pleasant sensation will
eventually pass away, resulting in suffering due to our attachment to it. Moreover, these sensations
are beyond our control and arise regardless of what we wish (anatta).

Through vedana, one can realize that all the other aggregates have the same nature of anicca, dukkha
and anatta. By observing sensations throughout the body, the awareness becomes sharper and subtler
and the entire process of mind can be observed. The observation of vedana is the most direct and
tangible way to experience the reality of the entire mind-matter phenomenom. The comprehensive
insight gained through vedana, that is, by direct experience of vedana (paccanubhotipaccanubhoti), is
bhavana-maya panna. Through this insight, one sees things as they really are (yatha-bhuta pajanati)
and with repeated practice, one is gradually freed from the past conditioning of lobha (greed), dosa
(hatred) and moha (ignorance). This leads to liberation.
The teachings of a Buddha are not for mere intellectual entertainment but to be directly experienced,
because this alone can free one from the ingrained habit pattern of reacting with craving and aversion.
Freedom from this past habit pattern is possible when one works with the body sensations. When one
experiences pleasant sensations, at that moment, the past mental habit of craving arises. If one
observes this objectively with anicca-bodha (realisation of impermanence), the force of craving will
gradually diminish and be eradicated.
In the same way, when one experiences an unpleasant sensation, at that moment the past mental
habit pattern of aversion will arise. If one observes this objectively with anicca-bodha, then the force
of aversion will gradually diminish and get eradicated. Similarly, when one experiences neutral
sensations, at that moment, the past mental habit pattern of ignorance arises. If one observes this
experience objectively with anicca-bodha, the force of ignorance will gradually diminish and be
eradicated. Therefore, a Vipassana meditator specifically uses vedana as a tool to change the habit
pattern of the mind and to eradicate the anusaya (deep-rooted latent tendencies to react). In this way,
bhavana-maya panna changes the habit pattern of the mind through the development of insight into
one's nature with the help of vedana. The Vipassana meditator attains this insight through observing
bodily sensations. The deeper and more constant his insight, the closer he approaches the Ultimate
Truth and the closer he comes to freedom from suffering.
This is the relevance of vedana in the development of bhavana-maya panna, the one and only way for
liberation-ekayano maggo.
Notes: (All references VRI edition)
1. A Dictionary of the Pali Language, ed. R. C. Childers, Kegan Paul Ltd., London, 1909, p. 330
2. Pali-English Dictionary, ed. T. W. Rhys Davids, Pali Text Society, London, 1925,
p. 392
3. Patisambhidamagga 2.30
4.Visuddhi-Magga,Dhammasabhavapativedhalakkhana panna,dhammanamsabhavapaticchadakamohandhakaravidhamsanarasa; assammohapaccupatthana; samahito
yathabhutam janati passati-ti vacanato pana samadhi tassa padatthanam.
5. Digha Nikaya 3.305; Vibhanga 753
6. Rhys Davids, op. cit., p. 718
7. Vibhanga, loc. cit
8. Loc. cit
9. Abhidhammattha-sangaha, Hindi translation and commentary by Venerable Dr. U. Rewata Dhamma,
Varanaseyya Sanskrit Vishvavidyalaya, Varanasi, Vol. 1, p. 101; Dhammasangani Atthakatha,
10. Anguttara Nikaya 3.10.58

Significance of the Pali Term Dhuna in the Practice of Vipassana Meditation

Vipassana Research Institute
In the Pali language, there are several words, which appear to be quite insignificant, yet have very
deep meaning and relevance in the practice of Vipassana. One such word, occuring in the Tipitaka, is
the word dhunadhuna1 which means combing out, shaking off, doing away with. This word is derived
from the root 'dhu', which means to 'comb outcomb out'. Regarding patipatti (the actual practice), the
question arises-what to comb out, and how? The Buddha replied to these queries in the following
Udana (exclamation of joy);
Sabbakammajahassa bhikkhuno,
Dhunamanassa pure katam rajam.
Amamassa thitassa tadino.
Attho natthi janam lapetave.2
The monk who does not make new kamma
And combs out old defilements as they arise
Has reached that meditative state where there remains
no 'I' or 'mine'.
For him mere babbling makes no sense.
Engrossed in silent practice, he is bent.
The occasion for the utterance of this passage was the sight of a monk sitting near the Compassionate
One, cross-legged, erect and determined. Undergoing the fruition of his past actions, he was wracked
by intense, piercing, gross sensations but due to his constant distinct awareness of impermanence, he
did not lose his calm or balance of mind. Indeed these few brief lines of Udana set out the complete
technique of Vipassana meditation, the actual way to reach liberation.
Let us try to understand what the Buddha actually meant, in more detail. The word Vipassana means
to see things as they really are-not just as they appear to be. This is a state of pure observationstate
of pure observation without the cloud of imagination, preconception and illusion. That is why the
Buddha described the state of Vipassana as yatha-bhuta nana-dassanamyatha-bhuta nana-dassanam3
(as it is, so is it observed and understood). To put this into practice is to realize reality by direct
experience and proper understanding.
Egocentricity is the greatest and most dangerous of all the illusions. We can accept the doctrine of
'Non-Self'doctrine of 'non-self' or anatta on an emotional or intellectual basis simply because of blind
faith or intellectualisation. But what is the use of this acceptance alone if in our daily life, at the
practical level, we keep on living an ego-centered life? This illusory ego keeps its hold over us simply
because at the actual level we are continually submerged in it. Even to be totally convinced
intellectually about the dangers of this illusion is simply not enough. In reality we are rolling in
suffering because there is no direct realisation of these dangers, or the means to come out of it.
It is because the intellect is not capable of totally dispelling this illusion that the Buddha perfected this
wonderful technique of Vipassana-the Fourfold Establishing of Awareness (satipatthana)4 which he
called ekayano maggo, the one and only way for liberation. How could anyone become liberated while
rolling in complete illusion about his own reality? The removal of illusion by truth-realisation, by selfrealisation, is liberation.
The direct experience of our own reality prevents new mental conditioning, while at the same time
eradicating the bondage of the old accumulated kammaKhinam puranam, navam natthi sambhavam.5
The past has been destroyed, there is no new becoming.

How does Vipassana help us to stop tying new knots and to open up the old ones, eradicating all the
accumulations of the past? The text says that first, a meditator should sit correctly nisinno hoti
pallankam abhujitva ujum kayam panidhaya6 cross-legged and erect. Then he sits with adhitthana
(determination), no movement of the body of any kind. Now at the grossest physical level, all the
bodily and vocal actions are suspended so there can be no new physical kamma (kayika-kamma) or
vocal kamma (vacika-kamma).
Now one is in a position to try to stop mental kamma formations (mano-kamma). For this, one has to
become very alert, very attentive, fully awake and aware, all the time maintaining true understanding,
true wisdom. Aware of what? Anicca vata sankhara, uppadavaya-dhammino-the truth of
impermanence; the arising and passing of every compounded phenomenon7 within the framework of
one's physical structure.
A Vipassana meditator soon realizes the difference between apparent and actual truth. By simply
observing objectively and equanimously feeling the sensations in one's own body in a proper way, one
can easily reach a stage where even the most solid parts of the body are experienced as they really
are-nothing but oscillations and vibrations of subatomic particles (kalapa). What appears solid, hard
and impenetrable at the gross level is actually nothing but wavelets at the subtlest, ultimate level.
With this awareness, one can observe and realize that the entire pancakkhandha, the five aggregates,
are nothing but vibrations, arising and passing away. The entire phenomenon of mind and matter has
this continuously ephemeral nature. This is the ultimate truth (paramattha saccaparamattha sacca) of
mind and matter-permanently impermanent; nothing but a mass of tiny bubbles or ripples,
disintegrating as soon as they arise (sabbo loko pakampitosabbo loko pakampito).8 This realisation of
the basic characteristic of all phenomena as anicca (impermanent) leads one to the realisation of the
characteristic of anatta (not 'I', not 'me', not 'mine', not 'my soul'). The various sensations keep
arising in the body whether one likes it or not. There is no control over them, no possession of them.
They do not obey our wishes. This in turn makes one realize the nature of dukkha (suffering). Through
experience, one understands that identifying oneself with these changing impersonal phenomena is
nothing but suffering.
The more one is established at this level of ultimate truth, the more strongly and more steadfastly one
will be established in real wisdom. In contrast to this, anyone who is entangled in ignorance will crave
for the continuation of pleasant sensations and crave for the cessation of unpleasant sensations. This
reaction of the mind-volition based on craving and aversion-is the strongest bondage.
Initially the meditator will find himself in a tug-of-war between his new knowledge of phenomena as
impermanent and transitory, and the old attachment to the flow of sankhara (reactions), which is
based on ignorance. With repeated practice, he can learn the art of differentiating between what is
real and what is illusory. For longer and longer periods truth will predominate. Each sensation felt is
recognised as impermanent; hence the perception that accompanies each cognition is free from the
self-consciousness of 'I' and 'mine'.
The truth that the sensation immediately passes away begins to predominate, instead of the tanha
(craving) for it to continue, or the tanha for it to pass away. It is meaningless to like or dislike
sensations that pass away as soon as they arise. It is this liking and disliking which turns into the very
strong attachments that condition the mind and produce the bhava-sankhara, the bhava-kamma
(actions which are responsible to give a new birth) driving individuals along the endless rounds of
A non-reacting mind produces no new conditioning. The law of nature is such that the old
accumulation of conditioning in the flow of the consciousness (bhavanga-santati) will automatically
rise to the surface to be eradicated when no new sankhara are given as input. This comes about by
remaining equanimous with the direct understanding of the wisdom of anicca-anicca-vijja-nanaaniccavijja-nana. Here again, it is the practice of Vipassana which enables the meditator silently and
attentively to observe these old bondages of the past, as they arise, in their true impermanent nature.
With heightened equanimity, based on the constant thorough understanding of impermanence

(sampajanna), craving and aversion lose their grip. In a non-reacting mind, the latent conditions
cannot multiply-rather they are progressively eradicated.
At times, however, the fruition of the old kamma is so intense, that an ordinary meditator loses all
balance of mind. Wisdom fades away and the true perspective becomes blurred. The impersonal
attitude towards the pain is lost, and one begins to identify with the sensations. One may try
intellectually to come out of reactions, but actually one begins treating the pain as if it will never end,
and the reaction continues.
To realize the impermanent nature of all phenomena and to break the apparent solidity of perceptions,
a meditator must experience the stage of uppadavaya-dhamminouppadavaya-dhammino, the
instantaneous arising and vanishing of the vibrations or wavelets of nama-rupa (mind and matter).
This stage can be reached only by the proper practice of Vipassana meditation, the sure way to break
these bondages. In fact, Vipassana meditation is for the purpose ofpurpose of vipassana meditation
dhunamanassa pure katam rajamdhunamanassa pure katam rajam-a process of combing out all the
old defilements from the fabric of consciousness. With the process of carding and combing, knots
automatically open up, and every fibre gets separated from the dirt of defilements. This vibrating
string of the pure mind beats out all the impurities of the past. A Vipassana meditator working on
physical sensations quite distinctly experiences this process.
This combing processcombing process is not complete while even the smallest knot remains
unopened. In the same way, the practice of Vipassana must continue until all impressions of solidity
anywhere in the framework of the physical and mental structure have been removed.
How can this stage be achieved? As the text saysPuranakammavipakajam dukkham tibbam kharam katukam vedanam adhivasento.9
The meditator dwells enduring equanimouslyenduring equanimously the fruition of his or her past
actions, no matter how painful, severe, sharp and terrible they are.
How is this possible? Not enduring (that is, becoming agitated or crying because of the past habit)
would be the complete opposite of the process of purification. One can only endure such intense
sensations by developing awareness and the thorough understanding of impermanence (sampajanna),
resulting in equanimity (upekkha). It is by knowing perfectly the true nature (anicca) of the present
phenomenon, that one is able to bear these fruits of the past without any reaction. The meditator
becomes an impartial observer of the suffering rather than the sufferer. This detachment allows the
old bondages to get eradicated, and soon, there will be no observer but mere observationmere
observation and no sufferer but mere sufferingmere suffering.
From time to time, slight agitation or identification with the sensation may reappear and trigger fresh
craving and aversion. But with continuous practice, a vigilant meditator reaches the stage of
amamassa thitassaamamassa thitassa or the stage where the illusion of 'I' and 'mine' is eradicated.
He or she can bear anything, even the most severe sensations, in the state of
avihannamanoavihannamano, free from agitation. As a result comes sabba kammajahassasabba
kammajahassa-the cessation of all kinds of new kamma formations. Now the meditator is fully
engrossed in dhunamanassa pure katam rajam, or continual purification, because he or she has
stopped making new sankhara, that is, new cetana (volition) or new kamma. In this way, the old
sankhara naturally get eradicated little by little (thokam thokamthokam thokam) so that the state of
visankhara gatam cittamvisankhara gatam cittam,10 or total purification of mind, is reached. A
meditator engaged in such a task needs to spend all his or her time in actual practice-attho natthi
janam lapetave. Where is the time for useless talk? Every moment is precious, not to be wasted. The
only ones who waste time in talking are those who do not realize the seriousness of the task, who do
not work properly. The noble practice of truth-realisation is degraded to mere intellectual chatter.
Liberation can only be gained by practice, never by discussion.
That is why the Buddha burst forth in praise of the monk who was so resolutely practising the sure
path of liberation. 'Cross-legged, erect and determined, undergoing the fruition of his past actions,

wracked by intense, piercing, gross bodily sensations, with sharpened awareness and the constant
thorough understanding of impermanence (sati-sampajanna), making no new kammas, combing out
old defilements as they arise, with nothing remaining of "I" and "mine".'
Notes: (All references VRI edition)
1. In the entire Tipitaka, the word occurs nineteen times
2. Udana 21
3. Patisambhidamagga 1.18
4. Digha Nikaya 2.373
5. Khuddaka-Patha 6.15; Suttanipata 238
6. Udana 21
7. Digha Nikaya 2.221
8. Samyutta Nikaya 1.1.168
9. Udana 21
10. Dhammapada 154

Types of Vedana and a State Beyond Vedana

Vipassana Research Institute
Although vedana (sensations) are innumerable, they have been classified into three categories in the
texts; sukhasukha (pleasant), dukkhadukkha (unpleasant) and adukkhamasukha (neutral). The
reason for this categorisation is obvious. These three vedana are tools which a Vipassana meditator
can easily use to perceive the truth of arising and passing away, aniccataaniccata (impermanence).
For this reason in the Vedananupassanavedananupassana section of the Satipatthana Sutta, we find
only these three vedana.1
As stated above, the sensations are varied and diverse just like winds which blow in the sky, or like
visitors to a public rest-house who come, stay for some time and then go away.2
On other occasions, the Buddha spoke of many more types of vedana. These should be understood in
relation to the context of the situation. For example, in the Pancakanga SuttaPancakanga Sutta of the
Samyutta Nikaya,3 a talk between Pancakanga, the carpenter, and Venerable Udayi is recorded.
Pancakanga insists that the Buddha speaks of only two vedana-sukha and dukkha. Whereas Venerable
Udayi says that the Buddha speaks of three-sukha, dukkha and adukkhamasukha. When the matter
was brought to the attention of the Buddha by Ananda, he said that he had not only spoken of two or
three vedana but many more, sometimes as many as five, six, eighteen, thirty-six, and even one
hundred and eight.4 However, we should bear in mind that numbers are always mentioned in a
context, or in the course of explaining a point. Otherwise, he said, it would be difficult to grasp the
exact meaning of his discourse and one might fall into illusion and futile discussions.
At times the Buddha spoke of only two vedana-kayika vedana (bodily) and cetasika vedana (mental).
But without correctly understanding the context, a person may argue-how is it possible to experience
a vedana on the body without the application of mind? It is true that the vedana arisen on the body is
not felt by the body itself but by the mind. Thus, for feeling vedanafeeling a vedana, both the
kayakaya (body) and manamana (mind) must be present. Then why has the Buddha spoken of kayika
(bodily) and cetasika (mental) separately? The Buddha says that whenever he has spoken of these
two vedana, his statement is related to a particular point occurring during the discourse. Although
both mind and body must be present to feel a vedana, it is called kayika only when the kaya (body) is
pre-eminent and the mind is not disturbed or agitated. This is the state of mind of an
ariyasavakaariyasavaka (noble disciplenoble disciple). Whereas, when an ordinary person encounters a
vedana on the body, he is utterly disturbed and his mental state becomes agitated. Taking these
factors into consideration, the Buddha has spoken of two vedana-kayika and cetasika. A well trained
ariyasavaka who is aware of the aniccata (impermanent nature) of the vedana remains visamyutta
(detached) from it. But the mind of the ordinary man is ignorant of the true nature of the vedana and

becomes disturbed. He is samyutto (attached) to the vedana. Therefore, the Buddha has described
vedana as both kayika and cetasika. The distinction is simply between the mental dispositionmental
dispositions of an ordinary personordinary person, and of an ariyasavaka. The former is inferior and
characterised by ignorance, whereas the latter is sato sampajanosato sampajano-wise, vigilant,
attentive and with constant thorough understanding of arising and passing away, the aniccata of
In the Pancakanga Suttapancakanga sutta,6 the Buddha enumerated five sukha vedana by associating
them with the contact of the panca kamaguna (five sense elements): eye, ear, nose, tongue and body.
He says that although both, an ordinary person and a meditator, experience the same contact, there is
a vast qualitative difference between their two experiences. The sukha vedana experienced by the
ordinary person (kamasukha) is inferior and can never be compared with the sukha that the meditator
experiences in the pathama jhanajhana (first absorptionstages of absorption), the dutiya jhana
(second absorption), the tatiya jhana (third absorption) or the catuttha jhana (fourth absorption).
There are progressive qualitative differences in sukha in these jhanas as well. The sukha experienced
in the akasanancayatana samadhi (fifth absorption) is superior to the above four jhanas. The sukha
experienced in the vinnananancayatana samadhi (sixth absorption) and in the akincannayatana
(seventh absorption) is superior to the preceding one. Similarly, the sukha that a meditator
experiences at the stage of nevasannanasannayatana (eighth absorption) is indeed far superior to the
previous experiences of sukha. But the sukha experienced in this samadhi also cannot be regarded as
paramam sukham.
It is interesting to note that the Buddha, prior to his enlightenmentprior to enlightenment while still a
Bodhisattabodhisatta, visited many saints, sages and meditators who were engaged in different types
of penances or meditation practises. The most eminent were Alara KalamaAlara Kalama and Uddaka
RamaputtaUddaka Ramaputta. He approached Alara Kalama first and soon mastered the stage of
akincannayatana samadhi (seventh jhana), which was the highest known to Alara Kalama. The
Buddha, not finding this samadhi to be the final stage of liberation, left him and went to Uddaka
Ramaputta. There he quickly mastered the samadhi of nevasannanasannayatana, (eighth jhana),
which was the highest he could learn from him. The Buddha also did not regard this stage of samadhi
as the final liberation and so he left Uddaka Ramaputta as well.7 After spending a long time practising
severe austerities and torturing the body, he came to present day Bodha Gaya. He sat down under a
tree and ultimately attained the highest stage of samadhihighest stage of samadhi, which he called
sanna-vedayita-nirodha samapattisanna-vedayita-nirodha samapatti. This is a stage beyond namarupa, beyond vedana and sanna. There he experienced the highest sukhahighest sukha, which is
beyond the sukha of the mundane sphere, a sukha that is eternal. At this stage of samadhi, a
Vipassana meditator goes beyond the eighth jhanabeyond the eighth jhana, where the nirodha
(cessation) of sanna and vedana (perception and feeling) is reached. The Buddha says that a
meditator, through realising the extinction of sanna and vedana by the purifying wisdom of anicca,
enters the stage of sanna-vedayita-nirodha, and destroys his asavas (cankers) and becomes free from
the world.8
The Buddha taught his first five disciples (pancavaggiya-bhikkhu) that this very samadhi was the
highest, beyond the realm of Mara.9 The attainment of sanna-vedayita-nirodha samapatti is the
highest stage in which a meditator realizes the stage of paramam sukham, santi varapadam, the
supreme happiness and peace.
The Buddha frequently used the common term sukha because the language of the time lacked a term
capable of precisely describing the sukha-vedana experienced at different levels of samadhi. These
could only be experienced and understood by practice.
The Buddha enumerated five vedana in describing the five controlling powersfive controlling powers of
indriyasindriyas1. sukhindriyasukhindriya (pleasure)
2. dukkhindriyadukkhindriya (pain)

3. somanassindriyasomanassindriya (mental joy)

4. domanassindriyadomanassindriya (mental grief)
5. upekkhindriyaupekkhindriya (equanimity)10
The vedana are enumerated as six when describing their arising by the contact on the six sense-doors.
These six vedanasix vedana through contact are1. cakkhusamphassaja vedanacakkhusamphassaja vedana
2. sotasamphassaja vedanasotasamphassaja vedana
3. ghanasamphassaja vedanaghanasamphassaja vedana
4. jivhasamphassaja vedanajivhasamphassaja vedana
5. kayasamphassaja vedanakayasamphassaja vedana
6. manosamphassaja vedanamanosamphassaja vedana
In each case, vedana should be understood in the context in which they occur.11
The number of vedana come to eighteen when we combine each of the six above with
somanssupavicarasomanssupavicara (the mental application of joy),
domanassupavicaradomanassupavicara (the mental application of grief) and
upekkhupavicaraupekkhupavicara (the mental application of indifference).
On certain occasions, the number of vedana is thirty-six: Cha gehasitani somanassam (six of mental
joy concerning the household life); cha nekkhammasitani somanassam (six of mental joy concerning
the life of renunciation); cha gehasitani domanassam (six of mental grief concerning the household
life); cha nekkhammasitani domanassam (six of mental grief concerning the life of renunciation); cha
gehasitani upekkha (six of mental indifference concerning the household life); cha nekkhammasitani
upekkha (six of mental indifference concerning the life of renunciation). The reference to
somanassasitani, domanassasitani, and upekkhasitani, which includes both household life and the life
of renunciation, concerns the mental disposition of a person and not his outer dress or apparent
condition. A householder may attain stages superior to a renunciate who has left the householder's life
and has not developed in meditation. The Buddha stated in a gatha in the DhammapadaAlankato ce pi samam careyya,
santo danto niyato brahmacari.
Sabbesu bhutesu nidhaya dandam,
so brahmano so samano sa bhikkhu.12
Though gaily decked, if he should live in peace,
with passions subdued, sensations controlled, certain (of the four
paths of sainthood), perfectly pure,
laying aside the rod (in his relations), towards all living beings,
a brahmana indeed is he, a samana is he, a bhikkhu is he.
For example, Citta Gahapati remained a householder throughout his life. However, by undertaking the
thorough understanding and practice of Dhamma, he attained the stage of anagami, a higher stage
than that reached by many of the monks of his time. He was therefore known as 'pre-eminent in
expounding the Dhamma'.13 In the Acelakassapa Suttaacelakassapa sutta of the Samyutta Nikaya,14
Citta Gahapati declares that he could practise the four jhanas, and that if he died prior to the Buddha,
he would be pronounced by him as one who had no fetters (samyojana) which would bring him back
to this world again.15 There are cases where monks having renounced the household, remain as
undeveloped at the mental level as an ordinary householder. This level of mental development cannot

therefore be called nekkhammasitani.

There is the example of Venerable Nanda, the Buddha's stepbrother, who though ordained as a monk
by the Buddha himself, was nevertheless tormented by thoughts of his former betrothed.16 His mental
state did not reflect the calm of the true renunciate but rather the agitation of the householder.
The number of vedana to be calculated varies with the situation and with the Dhamma that is being
explained to the listener. The number of vedana can be considered two, three, five, six, eighteen,
thirty-six, or even one hundred and eight depending on the context. One can only understand them
properly in relation to the specific discourse.
Notes: (All references VRI edition)
1. Digha Nikaya 2.380; Majjhima Nikaya 1.113
2. Samyutta Nikaya 3.5.512
3. Ibid. 3.5.517-523
4. Ibid. 3.5.517
5. Ibid. Salla Sutta 2.4.254
6. Ibid. 2. 4. 267
7. Majjhima-Nikaya, Pasarasi Sutta, 1.277, Nayam dhammo nibbidaya, na viragaya na nirodhaya na
upasamaya na abhinnaya na sambodhaya na nibbanaya samvattati.
8. Ibid. 1.271, Bhikkhu sabbaso nevasannanasannayatanam samatikkammasannavedayitanirodham
upasampajja viharati. Pannaya cassa disva asava parikkhinahanti.
9. Loc. cit
10. Samyutta Nikaya 3.5.501 - 507
11. Loc. cit
12. Dhammapada 142
13. Anguttara Nikaya 1.1.175 - 186
14. Samyutta Nikaya 3.4.351
15. Ibid. 3.4.54 - 55
16. Samyutta Nikaya 4.2.222

Vedana in Paticcasamuppada
Vipassana Research Institute
Paticcasamuppadapaticcasamuppada, or the Law of Dependent Originationlaw of dependent
origination, is fundamental to the teaching of the Buddha. Emphasising its importance, the Buddha
saidYo paticcasamuppadam passati, so dhammam passati;
Yo dhammam passati, so paticcasamuppadam passati.1
One who sees the paticcasamuppada sees the Dhamma.
One who sees the Dhamma sees the paticcasamuppada.
Paticcasamuppada explains that samsarasamsara, the process of repeated existences, is perpetuated
by a chain of interconnected links of cause and effect; it also reveals the method of breaking this chain
and putting an end to the process.
The Buddha saidTanhadutiyo puriso, dighamaddhana samsaram;
Itthabhavannathabhavam, samsaram nativattati.2.
The man with craving as his companion has been flowing in the stream of repeated existences from
time immemorial. He comes into being, experiences various types of miseries, dies again and again,
and does not put an end to this unbroken process of becoming.

This is samsara, the world of suffering, as explained by the Buddha. He further saidEtam adinavam natva, tanham dukkhassa sambhavam;
Vitatanho anadano, sato bhikkhu paribbaje.3
Rightly understanding the perils of this process, fully realizing craving as its cause, becoming free from
craving and attachment, one should mindfully lead the life of detachment.
Such an approach, he said, will have great benefitNandi-samyojano loko, vitakkassa vicaranam
Tanhaya vippahanena, nibbanam iti vuccati.4
Pleasure is the binding force in the world.
Rolling thought processes are its ever-changing base.
With the complete eradication of craving,
The state called nibbananibbana is attained.
These statements made by the Buddha describe the nature of samsara, the state of suffering, and the
nature of nibbana, the state of final emancipation. But how can detachment be developed, and craving
This is the practical aspect of Dhamma discovered by Siddhattha Gotama, the realisation that made
him a Buddha, and that he in turn revealed to the world by the doctrine of paticcasamuppada.
According to this doctrine, twelve linkstwelve links form the wheel of becomingwheel of becoming
(bhavacakkabhavacakka). They are1. avijjaavijja (ignorance)
2. sankharasankhara (volitional activities)
3. vinnanavinnana (consciousness)
4. nama-rupanama-rupa (mind and matter)
5. salayatanasalayatana (six sense doors)
6. phassaphassa (contact)
7. vedanavedana (sensation)
8. tanhatanha (craving)
9. upadanaupadana (clinging)
10. bhava (becoming)
11. jatijati (birth)
12. jara-maranajara-marana (decay and death)
Dependent on avijja there arises sankhara; dependent on sankhara there arises vinnana; dependent
on vinnana there arises nama-rupa; dependent on nama-rupa there arises salayatana; dependent on
salayatana there arises phassa; dependent on phassa there arises vedana; dependent on vedana
there arises tanha; dependent on tanha there arises upadana. Thus this vicious circle of misery rolls
on. In other words, the origin of each link depends upon the preceding one. As long as this chain of

twelve causal relations operates, the wheel of becoming (bhava-cakka) keeps turning, bringing
nothing but suffering. This process of cause and effect is called anuloma-paticcasamuppadaanulomapaticcasamuppada (direct Law of Dependent Origination). Every link of anuloma results in dukkha,
suffering, as a result of avijja, which is at the base of every link. Thus the process of anuloma clarifies
the first two Noble Truths: dukkha-sacca, suffering, and samudaya-sacca, its origination and
multiplication. Our task is to emerge from the bhava-cakka of dukkha. Explaining how to do so, the
Buddha said that when any one of the links of the chain is broken, the wheel of becoming comes to an
end, resulting in the cessation of suffering. This is called patiloma-paticcasamuppadapatilomapaticcasamuppada (the Law of Dependent Origination in reverse order) which clarifies the third and
fourth Noble Truths, nirodha-sacca the cessation of suffering and nirodha-gamini-patipada-sacca, the
path that leads to the cessation of suffering. How can that be achieved? At which link can the chain be
broken? Through deep insight, the Buddha discovered that the crucial link is vedana. In the anulomapaticcasamuppada, he says 'Vedana-paccaya-tanha'. Vedana is the cause of tanha, which gives rise to
dukkha. In order to remove the cause of dukkha or tanha, one must not allow vedana to connect with
tanha; in other words, one must practise Vipassana meditation at this juncture so that avijja becomes
vijja or panna (wisdom). One has to observe vedana, to experience and to comprehend the truth of its
arising and passing away, anicca. By Vipassana meditation, as one experiences vedana in the proper
way, one comes out of the delusion of nicca-sannanicca-sanna (perception of permanence) by the
development of anicca-bodha or anicca-vijja (the wisdom of impermanence) towards vedana. This is
practised by observing with equanimity the arising and passing away of vedana. With aniccabodhaanicca-bodha, the habit pattern of the mind changes. Instead of the earlier pattern of vedanapaccaya tanha, through anicca-vijjaanicca-vijja it becomes vedana-paccaya pannavedana-paccaya
panna. As panna becomes stronger and stronger, naturally sanna, and with it, tanha, becomes weaker
and weaker. The process of multiplication of suffering with the base of avijja then becomes the process
of the cessation of suffering, with vijja as the base. As this process continues, a time comes where
there is the complete cessation of vedana as well as tanha- 'Vedana-nirodha, tanha-nirodhovedananirodha, tanha-nirodho'. This state of emancipationstate of emancipation is a state beyond mind and
matter, where both vedana and sanna cease. One can experience this for a few seconds, minutes,
hours, or days when, according to one's own capacity, one becomes established in nirodha-samapatti
by practising Vipassana. After the period of nirodha-samapattinirodha-samapatti, when one comes
back to the sensual field of mind and matter, one again experiences vedana. But now the whole habit
pattern of the mind has been changed, and continued practice leads to the stage where one does not
generate aversion or craving at all because anusaya and asava (the deep-rooted mental impurities)
are eradicated. In this way, by the breaking of one linkthe breaking of one link-vedana, the whole
process is shattered and the wheel of repeated existencewheel of repeated existence is completely
If we want to advance on the path of liberationpath of liberation, we have to work at the level of
vedana because it is here that the wheel of misery can be arrested. With vedana starts the turning of
the bhava-cakkabhava-cakka, leading (because of avijja) to vedana-paccaya tanha, which causes
suffering. This is the path which ignorant persons (puthujjana) follow, since they react to vedana and
generate tanha. And from here also the dhamma-cakkadhamma-cakka, or the wheel of cessation of
suffering (dukkha-nirodha-gamini-patipada) can start to rotate, leading to vedana-nirodha, tanhanirodho-the end of craving, as a result of anicca-vijja or panna, leading to the cessation of suffering.
This is the path which wise persons (sapannasapanna) follow by not reacting to vedana, because they
have developed anicca-bodha by the practice of Vipassana.
Many of the contemporaries of the Buddhacontemporaries of the buddha held the view that craving
causes suffering and that to remove suffering one has to abstain from the objects of craving. Having
learnt to examine the depths of his mind, the Buddha realized that between the external object and
mental reflex of craving is a missing linkmissing link-vedana (sensation). Whenever we encounter an
object through the five physical senses or the mind, a sensation arises; and based on the sensation,
tanhatanha arises. If the sensation is pleasant we crave to prolong it, and if it is unpleasant we crave
to be rid of it. It is in the chain of Dependent Origination that the Buddha expressed his great
Phassa-paccaya vedana Vedana-paccaya tanha.5

Dependent on contact, sensation arises.

Dependent on sensation, craving arises.
The immediate cause for the arising of cravingimmediate cause for the arising of craving and of
suffering is, therefore, not something outside of us but rather the sensations that occur within us. To
free ourselves of craving and of suffering we must deal with this inner reality of sensations. Doing so
is the practical way to emerge from suffering. By developing anicca-vijja (the wisdom of
impermanence), we learn to cut the knots of our misery and witness the true nature of Dhamma.
Therefore vedana is the cause of our bondage when not properly observed, as well as the means of
liberation when properly observed by understanding the Dhamma, the law of paticcasamuppada.
Notes: (All references VRI edition)

Majjhima Nikaya 1.306

Suttanipata 745
Ibid. 746
Samyutta Nikaya 1.1.64
Mahavagga (Vinaya Pitaka) 1

Vedana in the Practice of Satipatthana

Vipassana Research Institute
The practice of the fourfold satipatthanasatipatthana, the establishing of awareness, has been highly
praised by the Buddha in many places in the suttas. Mentioning its importance in the
Mahasatipatthana Suttamahasatipatthana sutta, the Buddha called it 'ekayano maggo'ekayano
maggo-'the only waythe only way for the purification of beings, for overcoming sorrow, for the
extinguishing of suffering, for entering the path of truth and experiencing nibbana (liberation)'.1
In the sutta, the Buddha presented a practical method for developing self-knowledge by means of
kayanupassanakayanupassana (constant observation of the body),
vedananupassanavedananupassana (constant observation of sensations),
cittanupassanacittanupassana (constant observation of the mind), and
dhammanupassanadhammanupassana (constant observation of the contents of the mind).2
To explore the truth about ourselves, we must examine what we are-body and mind. We must learn to
observe these directly within ourselves. Accordingly, we must keep three points in mind1. The reality of the body may be imagined by contemplation, but to experience it directly, one must
work with vedana (bodily sensations) arising within it.
2. Similarly, the actual experience of the mind is attained by working with the contents of the mind.
Therefore, as body and sensations cannot be experienced separately, the mind cannot be observed
apart from the contents of the mind.
3. Mind and matter are so closely interrelated that the contents of the mind always manifest
themselves as sensations in the body. For this reason the Buddha saidVedanasamosarana sabbe dhamma.vedanasamosarana sabbe dhamma3
Whatever arises in the mind is accompanied by sensations.
Therefore, observation of sensation offers a means-indeed the only means-to examine the totality of
our being, physical as well as mental.

There are four dimensions to our naturefour dimensions to our nature-the body and its sensations and
the mind and its contents. These provide four avenues for the establishing of awareness in
satipatthana. In order for the observation to be complete, every facet must be experienced, as it can
by means of vedana. This truth-exploration will remove the delusions we have about ourselves.
Likewise, to come out of the delusions about the world outside, the truth about the contact of the
outside world with our own mind-and-matter phenomenon must be explored. The outside world comes
in contact with the individual only at the six sense doorssix sense doors-the eye, ear, nose, tongue,
body and mind. As all of these sense doors are contained in the body, every contact of the outside
world is at the body level. According to the law of naturelaw of nature, with every contactcontact there
is bound to be sensation. Every time there is a contact with any of the six sense objects, a sensation
will arise on the body. Therefore, just as the understanding of vedana is absolutely essential to
understand the interaction between mind and matter within oneself, the same understanding of
vedana is essential to understand the interaction of the outside world with the individual.
If this exploration of truth were to be attempted by contemplation or intellectualisation, we could have
easily ignored the importance of vedana. However, the crux of Buddha's teaching is the necessity of
understanding the truth not merely at the intellectual level, but by direct experience. For this reason,
vedana is defined as followsYa vedayati ti vedana, sa vedayita lakkhana, anubhavanarasa...4
That which feels the object is vedana; its characteristic is
to experience, its function is to realize the object....
However, merely feeling the sensations within is not enough to remove our delusions. Instead, it is
essential to understand ti-lakkhanati-lakkhana (the three characteristics) of all phenomena. We must
directly experience aniccaanicca (impermanence), dukkhadukkha (suffering), and anattaanatta
(substancelessness) within ourselves. Of these three, the Buddha always gave importance to anicca
because the realisation of the other two will easily follow when we have experienced deeply the
characteristic of impermanence. In the Meghiya Suttameghiya sutta of the Udana, he saidAniccasannino hi, Meghiya, anattasanna santhati, anattasanni asmimanasamugghatam papunati
dittheva dhamme nibbanam5
In him, Meghiya, who is conscious of impermanence the consciousness of what is substanceless is
established. He who is conscious of what is substanceless wins the uprooting of the pride of egotism in
this very life, that is, he realizes nibbana.
Therefore, in the practice of satipatthana, the experience of anicca, arising and passing away, plays a
crucial role.
The Mahasatipatthana Sutta begins with the observation of the body. Here several different starting
points are explained-observing respiration, giving attention to bodily movements, etc. It is from these
points that one can progressively develop vedananupassana, cittanupassana and dhammanupassana.
However, no matter where the journey starts, everyone must pass through certain stations on the way
to the final goal. These are described in important sentences repeated not only at the end of each
section of kayanupassana but also at the end of vedananupassana, cittanupassana and each section of
dhammanupassana. They are1. Samudaya-dhammanupassi va viharati.
2. Vaya-dhammanupassi va viharati.
3. Samudaya-vaya- dhammanupassi va viharati.6

1. One dwells observing the phenomenon of arising.

2. One dwells observing the phenomenon of passing away.

3. One dwells observing the phenomenon of arising and passing away.
These sentences reveal the essence of the practice of satipatthana. Until and unless these three levels
of anicca are practised, one will not develop wisdom. Therefore, in order to practise any of the fourfold
satipatthana, one has to develop the constant thorough understanding of impermanence, known as
sampajanna in Pali. In other words, one must meditate on the arising and passing away of phenomena
(anicca-bodha), objectively observing mind and matter without reaction. The practice of samudayavaya-dhamma (impermanence), should not be merely a contemplation or process of thinking or
imagination or even believing; it should be performed with paccanubhotipaccanubhoti, (direct
experience). Here the observation of vedana plays its vital role, because with vedana a meditator very
clearly and tangibly realizes samudaya-vaya (arising and passing away).7 Sampajanna in fact is
knowing the arising and passing away of vedana and thereby all four facets of our being.
It is for this reason that in each of the four satipatthanas, sampajano, as well as atapiatapi (ardent)
and satimasatima (aware) are essential qualities and the three are invariably repeated for each of the
satipatthanas. And as the Buddha explained, sampajanna is observing the arising and passing away of
vedana.8 Hence the part played by vedana in the practice of satipatthana should not be ignored; or
this practice of satipatthana will not be complete.
In the words of the BuddhaTisso ima, bhikkhave, vedana. Katama tisso? Sukha vedana, dukkha
vedana, adukkhamasukha vedana. Ima kho, bhikkhave, tisso vedana.
Imasam kho, bhikkhave, tissannam vedananam, parinnaya cattaro
satipatthana bhavetabba.9
Meditators, there are three types of bodily sensations. What are the three? Pleasant sensations,
unpleasant sensations and neutral sensations. Having completely understood these three sensations,
meditators, the four-fold satipatthana should be practised.
The practice of satipatthana is complete only when one directly experiences impermanence. Body
sensations provide the nexus where the entire mind and body are tangibly revealed as an
impermanent phenomenon leading to liberation.
Notes: (All references VRI edition)

Digha Nikaya 2.373

Loc. cit
Anguttara Nikaya 3.8.83
Dhammasangami Atthakatha 1, Kamavacacarakusalapadabhagamiyam
Udana 31
Digha Nikaya 2.374
Udana 31
Samyutta Nikaya 3.5.399 - 400
Ibid. 3.5.415

Vipassana Research Institute
There are several technical terms in Pali which are of significance both in the field of pariyatti (theory)
and patipatti (practice). One such word is sampajannasampajanna.
This term often occurs along with satisati in the expressions such as sati sampajannam, or sato ca

sampajano, or sato sampajano. As a result, it has been widely interpreted as an exhortation to be

mindful, and has been defined as being nearly synonymous with sato1 (awareness), merely indicating
a greater intensity of awareness. However, the texts of the Abhidhamma Pitaka suggest a different
rendering of this word. In the Dhammasangani, Vibhanga and Dhatukhatha we find the following
definition of sampajanoSampajano ti tattha katamam sampajannam? Ya panna pajanana vicayo pavicayo dhammavicayo
sallalakkhana upalakkhana paccupalakkhana pandiccam kosallam nepunnam vebhabya cinta
upaparikkha bhuri medha parinayika vipassana sampajannam... sammaditthi-idam vuccati
What is sampajanna? That which is wisdom, understanding, investigation, deep investigation, truth
investigation, discernment, discrimination, differentiation, erudition, proficiency, skill, analysis,
consideration, close examination, breadth, sagacity, guidance, insight, thorough understanding of
impermanence,.... right view - this is called sampajanna.
This plethora of nouns and metaphors clearly convey that sampajanna is not awareness but wisdom.
This definition is confirmed by the etymology of the word, formed by the addition of the prefix 'sam'3
to 'pajanana',4 'knowing with wisdom knowing with wisdom'. Rather it refers to an intensified kind of
understanding-knowing correctly with wisdom or knowing in totality with thorough understanding. The
exhortation of the Buddha is to develop not simply awareness but also wisdom. That is why the text
statesSampajannam ti panna.sampajannam ti panna
Sampajanna is wisdom.
The commentaries explain more precisely what sampajanna consists ofSamma pakarehi aniccadini janati ti sampajannam.5
One who knows impermanence in a right way (as well as suffering and egolessness), has wisdom,
Samantato pakarehi pakattham va savisesam janati ti sampajano.6
One who understands the totality clearly with wisdom from all angles (of whatever is happening
moment to moment), or who knows distinctly (the ultimate), has sampajanna.
The Buddha always taught that wisdom (panna) is knowing things from different angles in the correct
way. He used these descriptions-samma pakarehi jananam (seeing from different perspectives seeing
from different perspectives, in totality); samantato pakarehi-jananam (having a complete and correct
picture, so that nothing is left unseen and unknown);
Samma, samantato, samanca pajananto sampajano.7
One who knows in a right way in totality through one's wisdom is sampajano.
In particular, as meditators we must see not only the superficial, external appearances of things, that
is, the apparent truth (sammuti saccasammuti sacca), but also the ultimate (paramattha
saccaparamattha sacca) or subtle understanding of reality. The apparent truth about the world and
ourselves is that we exist as individual separate entities, but the ultimate truth is that every moment,
everything, both the world as well as ourselves, is in constant flux. This fact of impermanence has to
be realized on the basis of experience, not merely at the intellectual level. It is only when we
experience this reality of arising and passing away that we emerge from suffering (dukkha) and
egotism (atta). This is what sampajanna enables us to do.
Therefore, for a meditator, sampajanna is complete understanding. It is insight into all aspects of the

human phenomenon, mental as well as physical. One must understand that whenever the mind
encounters an object, it perceives and evaluates it in a distorted way through the coloured lens of past
conditioning; it therefore reacts with ignorance, craving or aversion. This is the process that produces
suffering because wisdom is lacking.
Mind is reflected in the body and it is through its physical manifestation that we can clearly grasp its
nature of arising and passing away. This is why we find in the Mahasatipatthana Sutta that the
paragraph on sampajanna is contained in the section on the observation of body (kayanupassana). To
realize the fact of impermanence of our bodily activities, we must experience them at the level of
sensations (vedana) felt within the body. At a deep intuitive level these enable us to recognize our
ephemeral nature.
Thus, sampajanna is the realisation of our own ephemeral nature at the deepest level. Far from being
the equivalent of sati, it is the complement of sati.
The uniting of these two faculties is satipatthana, the establishing of awareness, by means of which
we can reach the goal of freedom from suffering.

Notes: (All references VRI edition)

1. For examples see Pali-English Dictionary, ed. T. W. Rhys Davids, Pali Text Society London, 1925,
entries for sampajanna and sampajano
2. Dhammasangani,1359; Vibhanga 360; Puggalapannatti, 80
3. See A Dictionary of the Pali Language, ed. R. C. Childers, Kegan Paul Ltd. London, 1909, p. 423,
under entry for sam
4. pa + janana = pajanana-know with wisdom
5. Dhammasangani Atthakatha,16, Kamavacarakusalabhajamiyam; Patisambhidamagga Atthakatha,
1.1.108 - 9
6. Digha Nikaya Tika 2.373

Importance of Vedana
Vipassana Research Institute
The Pali term vedana, rendered in English as feeling or sensation, is derived from the root 'vidvid',
which means 'to experienceto experience'. When an object comes in the range of a sense-organ, a
simple contact is thereby established with the mind, which experiences that object as sensation or
vedana. Therefore, the key to direct experience (paccanubhotipaccanubhoti), is vedana, since through
it we actually encounter and experience the world. As stated in the Pali textsYa vedayati ti vedana, sa vedayita lakkhana, anubhavanarasa...1
That which feels the object is vedana, its characteristic is to experience, its function is to realize the
It follows that in order to realize anything at the experiential level; one has to work with vedana.
The Buddha described vedana in various ways. In the Bahu-Vedaniya Suttabahu-vedaniya sutta of the
Majjhima Nikaya2, he mentioned and analyzed several types of sensations by groups-two types, three
types, five, six... eighteen, up to one hundred and eight varieties.3 However, when defining it more
precisely, he spoke of vedana as having both mental and physical aspects. Without mind, matter alone
cannot feel anything. It is the mind that feels, but what it feels has an inextricable physical elementthe sukha-vedana (pleasant sensations), dukkha-vedana (unpleasant sensations) and
adukkhamasukhavedana (neutral sensations).
For the actual practice taught by the Buddha, it is this physical aspect of vedana which is of particular

importance, since it is the most direct and tangible way to experience the anicca (impermanence) of
ourselves, and so to develop wisdom. Anicca is a fact to be realized not by merely relating it
intellectually to the outside world. Rather, it must be experienced internally. We must experience
ourselvesexperience ourselves as we really are-each a transitory phenomenon, changing every
moment. This experience of aniccaexperience of anicca at the level of sensations results in the gradual
dissolution of attachment and egotism. Describing the importance of the physical aspect of vedana for
the realisation of nibbana (liberation), the Buddha saidYathapi vata akaseyathapi vata akase, vayanti vividha puthu;
puratthima pacchima ca pi, uttara atha dakkhina.
Saraja araja ca pi, sita unha ca ekada;
adhimatta paritta ca, puthu vayanti maluta.
Tathevimasmim kayasmim, samuppajjanti vedana;
sukhadukkhasamuppatti, adukkhamasukha ca ya.
Yato ca bhikkhu atapi, sampajannam na rincati,
tato so vedana sabba, parijanati pandito.
So vedana parinnaya, ditthe dhamme anasavo,
kayassa bheda dhammattho sankham nopeti vedagu' ti. 4
Just as in the sky different windsas different winds in the sky blow from east and west, from north and
south, dust-laden or dustless, cold or hot, fierce gales or gentle breezes- many winds blow. So also
within the body arise sensations, pleasant, unpleasant or neutral. When a meditator, striving ardently,
does not lose his constant thorough understanding of impermanence even for a moment, such a wise
person fully comprehends all sensations. Having thus comprehended sensations, within this life he
becomes freed of all defilements (and becomes an arahant or vedagu). Such a person, who is vedagu
(one who completely understands the sphere of sensations), being established in Dhamma, after
death attains the indescribable state beyond the conditioned world because he knows sensations
thoroughly (their arising and passing away and also the state beyond sensation).
Again emphasizing the fact that the sensation manifests in the body, he saidSeyyathapi, bhikkhave, agantukagaramagantukagaram, tattha puratthimaya pi disaya agantva vasam
kappenti, pacchimaya pi disaya agantva vasam kappenti, uttaraya pi disaya... dakkhinaya pi disaya...
khattiya pi... brahmana pi... vessa pi... sudda pi... Evameva kho, bhikkhave, imasmim kayasmim
vividha vedana uppajjanti. Sukha pi vedana uppajjati, dukkha pi vedana uppajjati adukkhamasukha
pi...Samisa pi sukha.., samisa pi dukkha.., samisa pi adukkhamasukha... Niramisa pi sukha...
niramisa pi dukkha... niramisa pi adukkhamasukha vedana uppajjati. 5
Suppose, meditators, there is a public guest housepublic guest house. People come there from the
east, west, north and south. People who are Ksatriyas, Brahmins, Vaishyas and Shudras. Similarly,
meditators, various sensations arise in this body-pleasant sensations, unpleasant sensations and
neutral sensations arise; pleasant sensations with attachment, unpleasant... neutral... arise;
pleasant... unpleasant... neutral sensations without attachment arise.
The above passage clearly describes the process of Vipassana, whereby through observation of
sensations in the body (kayasmim), a person can be fully liberated from suffering. First, it describes
different types of sensations (pleasant, unpleasant, and neutral) which a meditator easily understands
and experiences by practising Vipassana. By constantly observing the sensations in the body, one
experiences the characteristic of arising and passing away. This objective unremitting observation is
sampajanna (constant thorough understanding of impermanence). According to the Buddha, one who
practises sampajanna is a wise personwise person, knowing experientially how sensations arise and
pass away within the body as a result of the repeated contact of sense objects. This person knows that
when one begins to relish the pleasant sensations and abhorr the unpleasant sensations, misery is
generated and multiplies. Without sampajanna, one remains unaware of the deeper unconscious level
of the mind. It is in the darkness of ignorancedarkness of ignorance that an unconscious reaction
begins towards the sensations. This momentary liking or disliking soon develops into craving or
aversion, the reaction repeating and intensifying innumerable times before it bursts forth into the

conscious mind. If importance is given only to what happens in the conscious mind, then because of
one's ignorance of the underlying reality, one becomes aware of it only after the reaction has occurred
repeatedly. One allows the spark of sensationspark of sensation to ignite into a raging fire before
trying to extinguish it, resulting in unskilful physical and vocal actions. By practising sampajanna, one
learns to observe the sensations within the body objectively, permitting each spark to burn itself out
without starting a conflagration. By observing the physical aspect of vedana, one becomes aware of
the reality that the vedana that has arisen is impermanent. With this understanding, one remains
equanimous and prevents any reaction from occurring. Constant observation of vedana in this manner
by anicca-bodha gives rise to detachment. With this attitude, one can prevent not only fresh reactions
of craving and aversion, but also eliminate the very habit of reactinghabit of reacting, and thereby
gradually come out of suffering by transcending all the sensations and becoming what the Buddha
calls a vedaguSabbavedanasu vitaragovitarago, sabbam vedamaticca vedagu so.6
One who is completely detached from vedana, and has gone beyond the entire (field of) vedana (to
reach vedana-nirodha) is called vedagu.
Emphasising the arising of sensation in the body which results in the attainment of nibbana, the
Buddha said in the PatthanaKayikam sukham... phala-samapattiyaphala-samapattiya upanissaya paccayena paccayo. Kayikam
dukkham.. phala-samapattiya upanissaya paccayena paccayo. 7
Pleasant bodily sensation is the cause for the arising of pleasant sensation of the body, unpleasant
sensation of the body, and attainment of fruition (nibbana) in relation to the strong dependent
condition. Unpleasant bodily sensation is the cause for the arising of pleasant sensation of the body,
unpleasant sensation of the body, and attainment of fruition (nibbana) in relation to the strong
dependent condition.
This shows that the Buddha gave foremost importance to sensation for the realisation of the ultimate
truth. As he himself saidAjjhattam ca bahiddha ca, vedanam nabhinandato;
evam satassa carato, vinnanam uparujjhati.8
By moving with full awareness, remaining detached from the sensations within and without and
observing them objectively, one reaches the cessation of consciousness.
Feeling the same pleasant or unpleasant sensations in the body, an ignorant personignorant person
reacts to them and multiplies his or her sankhara. In contrast, a Vipassana meditator with the wisdom
of sampajanna emerges from the old habit pattern and becomes fully liberated. Thus our bodies bear
witness to the truthwitness to the truth. By observing sensations, we can advance from merely
hearing about that truth to experiencing it directly for ourselves. When we meet it face to facemeet it
face to face, we become transformed by the truth and faith arises in us, based not on blind belief but
on experience.
Notes: (All references VRI edition)

Dhammasangami Atthakatha, 1, Kamavacarakusalapadabhajaniyam

Majjhima Nikaya 2.88
Samyutta Nikaya 2.4.270
Ibid. 194, 2.4.260
Ibid. 195, 2.4.262
Suttanipata, 534
Patthana 1.1.423
Suttanipata 1.117

The Causes of Vedana

Vipassana Research Institute
Although vedana (sensations) have played an important role in many meditation practices, there were
no practitioners in the past, save the Buddha, who investigated their real nature. These vedana are
sometimes gross and sometimes subtle, the latter becoming more distinct when the mind is
concentrated. However, the mind becomes agitated when it encounters more intense vedana, and the
meditator finds it difficult to observe them objectively and thereby investigate their true nature.
Many of the samanas and brahmanas of the past who engaged in meditation, held that these vedana
arise only due to the ripening of kamma (deeds committed in past lives). They therefore attempted to
deliberately create vedana through various austere practises and bodily torture. They believed that in
this way they could destroy all the effects of their past actions manifesting as these vedana, and
achieve the summum bonum, the stage of ultimate peace and calm.
The Buddha, however, instead of stressing the causes of vedana, instructed his followers to try to
comprehend their true nature of impermanence (anicca) and thereby purify the mind. He advised
them to maintain equanimity of mind, neither craving for pleasant vedana, nor having aversion to
unpleasant vedana, understanding that all vedana are intrinsically impermanent in nature, and are
bound to pass away. The meditator must learn to observe them as they really are- arising
(samudayasamudaya) and passing away (atthangamaatthangama). He must learn to recognize the
danger (adinava) of relishing them (assadaassada), and must observe their cessation
(nirodhanirodha) and the way leading to their cessation (nirodha-gamini-patipada). The Buddha
taught that one can purify the mind only by observing and understanding the real nature of vedana as
anicca. In this way, the meditator can be freed from the cycle of birth and death, and thereby attain
the stage beyond mind and matter, which is free from all sorrow and misery.
The Buddha saysSamahito sampajano, sato Buddhassa savako;
vedana ca pajanati, vedananam ca sambhavam.
Yattha ceta nirujjhanti, maggam ca khayagaminam;
vedananam khaya bhikkhu, nicchato parinibbuto.1
A follower of Buddha, with concentration, awareness and constant thorough understanding of
impermanence, knows with wisdom sensations, their arising, their cessation and the path leading to
their end. A meditator who has reached the end of sensations is freed from craving, fully liberated.
An interesting story is narrated in the Sivaka Suttasivaka sutta of the Samyutta Nikaya. Moliyasivaka,
a sectarian mendicant, came to the Buddha, and told him there were samanas and brahmanas who
held the view that vedana arise only due to the ripening of previous kamma (deeds). The Buddha
replied that samanas and brahmanas who held this view indeed 'run to extremes'
(atidhavantiatidhavanti) as they do not take other causes of vedana into account. Others held the view
that the only cause of vedana was bile (pittapitta), and they were also going to extremes. Both of
these opinions are miccha2 (incorrect). Believing that previous actions are the sole cause of vedana,
one indulges in different futile austere penances, hoping to eradicate the evil deeds committed in the
past and reach a stage of purity and peace. It is equally useless and incorrect to regard bile as the
sole cause of vedana.
Ye te samanabrahmana evamvadino evamditthino- Kincayam purisapuggalo patisamvedeti sukham va
dukkham va adukkhamasukham va sabbam tam pubbekatahetu'ti. Yam ca samam natam tam ca
atidhavanti, yam ca loke saccasammatam tam ca atidhavanti. Tasma tesam samanabrahmananam
micchati vadami.3

The Buddha, having comprehensive understanding of reality, pointed out other factors which may
cause vedana. For instance, bile may be a cause, the increase of phlegm (semhasemha) may also be a
cause. Additionally, wind (vatavata) in the body may be aggravated and cause different vedana. At
times, all three of these may become unbalanced and due to the diffusion of chemical reactions in the
body (sannipatasannipata), one may feel various vedana. Vedana may also be caused by seasonal
variations (utuniutuni). For example, one feels certain vedana when cold, but different vedana when
the weather is hot. It also happens that in adverse circumstances, or when one is frightened, the
equilibrium of the mind and body is disturbed (visamamvisamam). Different vedana will then be
experienced. In addition, a person may have to undergo physical punishment, or he may deliberately
adopt austere penances and torture himself as mentioned above, falsely believing that he can thereby
erase his sins and attain a pure and steadfast life (opakkamikamopakkamikam). In this instance as
well, different vedana may be experienced. Finally, the ripening of previous kamma may cause vedana
to arise in the body. Thus, by abandoning both extreme viewpoints, that of previous kamma as the
sole cause or that of bile as the sole cause, the Buddha delineated eight causes of vedanaPittam semham ca vato ca, sannipata utuni ca;
Visamam opakkamikam, kammavipakena atthamiti.4
The Buddha admonished his followers to meditate on vedana arising every moment within the body,
whatever their cause may be, and to learn to maintain a dispassionate state of mind towards them,
knowing that they are bound to pass away. By this training, a disciple of the Buddha can go beyond
the sphere of all vedana and experience the cessation of misery. This is the experience of nibbana.

Notes: (All references VRI edition)


Samyutta Nikaya 2.4.249

Ibid 2.4.269
Ibid 2.4.269
Ibid 2.4.269

The Comprehension of Vedana, the Sambodhi of the Buddha

Vipassana Research Institute
For ages the seers and sages of India have sought to unveil the central mystery of the worldmystery
of the world-the question of suffering, so very apparent in life, and how suffering may be ended. Many
seekers, in their quest, developed theories and philosophies, some based on their own experiences of
penance or meditation practice, others based merely on speculative thinking. These seekers were
intent on knowing what life is. Why do we live? How can the end of suffering be reached? How can
decay and death be overcomehow can death be overcome?
In the Buddha's day, some thinkers believed that if at the end of the present life a man's behaviour
was sufficiently excellent, he would be reborn in a higher world than the present. Some samanas and
brahmanas, not depending on imagination or poetic fancy, were familiar with more refined states of
mind and higher stages of consciousness, which they had experienced in various types of meditation
practices. They presented their own theories and new concepts. The states of concentration that these
Indian saints attained were not peculiar to one set of religious beliefs, and there were common
features to many systems of thought. They could not however regard them as 'perfect' in all respects.
In the Brahmajala Suttabrahmajala sutta of the Digha Nikaya we come across some sixty-two such
views or ditthi that for the most part deal with the following questions1. The nature of 'self' (atta)-Is it consciousness? Is it eternal?

2. Is the world eternal or finite?

3. Is life (jiva) or being (satta) the same as body?
4. Does the Tathagata, the person who has realized the Truth in this life, continue to live after death?
Interest in such matters was so intense in those days that many schools of thoughtschools of thought
came into existence, some with large followings. In another sutta of the Digha Nikaya, the Tevijja
SuttaTevijja Sutta1, there is a reference to brahmasahavyata or 'union with Brahmaunion with
This is the theory that took a wider dimension in the Vedanta of later times. The Buddha himself made
a thorough investigation of these schools of thought and examined them personally, either undergoing
their practices and penances, or meeting with adherents and discussing their views with them. He
concluded that they were unacceptable and could not lead to perfection, hence he called them
micchamiccha (false). He said that whatever they had experienced or whatever conclusions they had
arrived at by analytical insight were ultimately based on phassa or contact derived from the six sense
organs. He said that as long as one does not truly comprehend the origin (samudaya) and passing
away (atthangama), the relishing (assada), the resulting danger (adinava) in them and the release
(nissarana) from the six spheres of sense contact (phassayatana), one cannot transcend this world.
Yato kho, bhikkhave, bhikkhu channam phassayatananamchannam phassayatananam samudayam ca
atthangamam ca assadam ca adinavam ca nissaranam ca yathabhutam pajanati, ayam imehi
sabbeheva uttaritaram pajanati.2
The Buddha's contemporaries never realized nissarana, transcendence of the realm of salayatana (the
six sense organssix sense organs), and so remained in the sphere of phassa (contact). As long as they
did not truly comprehend phassa or the simultaneous arising of vedana (sensation), they remained
prone to either taking blind delight in them or be revulsed by them. Not realising the true nature of
vedana as anicca, they could not emerge from the realm of vedana and comprehend the ultimate
truth. In contrast, the Buddha in his meditation practice passed through the entire sphere of
salayatana and understood that the ultimate truth is going beyond it, the ceasing of salayatana, the
ceasing of phassa and therefore also the ceasing of vedana (nirodha). To reach the stage of nibbana,
he made a strenuous effort to realize the true nature of sensations arising based on phassa or contact,
essentially rooted in contact, conditioned by contact.3 In the Pubba Suttapubba sutta of the Samyutta
Nikaya, the Buddha says that before his Enlightenment, this thought occurred to himWhat are the vedana (sensations)? What is the arising (samudaya) of them? What is the ceasing of
them (nirodha)? And what is the way leading to the ceasing of them?4
He made a thorough investigation of these questions through the development of insight (Vipassana),
and by his deep meditation he could rightly understand the relishing of sensations (assada), the
danger in them (adinava) and ultimately how to go beyond them (nissarana). He thus realized the
true nature of vedana; only then did he proclaim himself to be a fully Enlightened One
(Sammasambuddha). In the Nana Suttanana sutta of the Samyutta Nikaya, the Buddha says that the
knowledge (nana), the vision (cakkhu), the insight (panna), the wisdom (vijja) and the light (aloka)
that he attained at the end of his deep practice of Vipassana were none other than the true
comprehension of vedana-their arising, their ceasing and the way leading to their cessation. He had
explored the entire sphere of vedana, and their complete cessation (nirodha). This is the Sambodhi
(full enlightenment) that he attained under the Bodhi Tree at Bodh Gaya.
It is true that the Buddha discovered the Law of Dependent Origination, paticcasamuppada,
contributing a new dimension to Indian spiritual thoughtnew dimension to Indian spiritual thought.
However, when we approach this theory analytically, we find it is exactly the same as the true
comprehension of vedana which can arise every moment within ourselves. It is well known that
phassa and vedana are included in the twelvefold link of the paticcasamuppada theory of life. The

Buddha realized the basic characteristics of vedana as anicca (transitory), dukkha (suffering) and
anatta (having no substance). He also went beyond the realm of vedana and experienced the truth,
the sublime happiness of nibbana (nibbanam paramam sukham). By transcending the sphere of
salayatana, one experiences this stage of nibbana where all the six sense doors cease functioning.
This is the salayatana nirodhasalayatana nirodha. When the sense doors have stopped functioning,
there is no possibility of phassa, and there is phassa-nirodhaphassa-nirodha. This stage leads to
vedana-nirodhavedana-nirodha and thus tanha-nirodhatanha-nirodha. This is the nirodha-gaminipatipada, which has been very well illustrated in several discourses of the Buddha.5
The dukkha-nirodha-gamini-patipada (The Path Leading to the Cessation of the Suffering) or the
majjhima-patipada (Middle Path) that he taught is also described as vedana-nirodha-gamini-patipada,
or the Path Leading to the Cessation of Vedana.6
The Buddha admonished the monks that a samana or brahmana achieves the consummation of his
Vipassana practice only when he perfectly realizes the vedana as they really are and goes beyond
them.7 This is nibbana, the final goal.
Notes: (All references VRI edition)
1. Digha Nikaya 1.518 - 559
2. Ibid. 1.145
3. Samyutta Nikaya 2.4.258, Tisso vedana phassaja phassamulaka...
4. Samyutta Nikaya 2.4.272, Vedana-nirodha-gamini-patipada.
5. For instance, in the Upadaya Sutta, the Dukkhasamudaya Sutta and the Lokasamudaya Sutta of the
Samyutta Nikaya (2.4.105; 2.4.106; 2.4.107) the Buddha makes very similar statements.
Samyutta Nikaya, 2.4.271- 274
6. Ibid. 2.4.273 -274

The Importance of Kaya-samphassaja-vedana in Vipassana Meditation

Vipassana Research Institute
The Buddha talked about different types of vedana (sensations). In paticcasamuppada he taughtSalayatana-paccaya phasso, phassa-paccaya vedana.1
Dependent on the six sense organs, there is contact; dependent on contact, there is sensation.
He explained the six types of sensations depending on sense contact as-2
1. Cakkhu-samphassaja vedana-cakkhu-samphassaja vedanasensation arising out of eye-contact.
2. Sota-samphassaja vedanasota-samphassaja vedana-sensation arising out of ear-contact.
3. Ghana-samphassaja vedanaghana-samphassaja vedana-sensation arising out of nose-contact.
4. Jivha-samphassaja vedanajivha-samphassaja vedana-sensation arising out of tongue-contact.
5. Kaya-samphassaja vedanakaya-samphassaja vedana-sensation arising out of body-contact.
6. Mano-samphassaja vedanamano-samphassaja vedana-sensation arising out of mindcontact.sensation arising out of contact.
Of these six types of vedana, this Vipassana tradition gives foremost importance to kaya-samphassaja
vedana. The importance of kayika vedana (body sensations) is explained in numerous suttas in the
Pali texts-Pathamakasa Suttapathamakasa sutta3, Agara Suttaagara sutta,4 etc. In the Abhidhamma

text Patthana, it is stated that by means of vedana, phala-samapatti,5 nibbana (liberation), is

There are several reasons for this. First, the Buddha emphasised continuity of practice in Vipassana
sampajannam na rincatisampajannam na rincati6-(not missing sampajanna even for a moment), and
in order to maintain this continuity we need an object which is with us continuously. The contact of the
eye with form and the arising of cakkhu-samphassaja vedana is not continuous, nor are sotasamphassaja vedana, ghana-samphassaja vedana, jivha-samphassaja vedana, and manosamphassaja vedana. But kaya-samphassaja vedana is ever present, day and night, throughout life.
Vedana arises with contact and the contact of mind and body is always taking place, as is the mutual
contact of the subatomic particles within the body. This constant contact of kaya-samphassaja vedana
serves as an effective tool for maintaining continuity of awareness and has, therefore, been given
prime importance in the Vipassana tradition. Secondly, a beginner in Vipassana meditation will easily
be able to comprehend and experience the kaya-samphassaja vedana compared to the other five since
it is more tangible and has a more extended field for observation. Thirdly, whether it is cakkhusamphassaja vedana or sota-samphassaja vedana or ghana-samphassaja vedana or jivhasamphassaja vedana or mano-samphassaja vedana, they are all based on the body. Even though we
only strike a particular point on a gong, the sound resonates throughout the gong; similarly, even
though a person experiences cakkhu-samphassaja vedana due to contact at the eye door, it will
spread and be felt in the whole body. In the same way, sota-samphassaja vedana, ghanasamphassaja vedana, jivha-samphassaja vedana, and mano-samphassaja vedana, are all experienced
throughout the body, since they all are based on the body (kaya), including the last one, for which the
base is the hadaya vatthu (mind base), a part of the body.
It is evident from the above that we cannot ignore bodily sensation if we wish to observe ourselves in
totality. It is for this reason that a fully enlightened person like Gotama the Buddha was unable to
teach the Dhamma (Vipassana) to his former teachers Alara Kalama and Uddaka Ramaputta from
whom he learnt the seventh and eighth jhana, and who had taken birth in the arupabrahma-loka
(formless worldsformless worlds). For a person like the Buddha, access to these worlds was not
impossible, nor was it impossible to communicate the teaching mentally to beings of these planes of
existence. However, the fact that these beings in the arupabrahma-loka do not experience bodily
sensation prevented the Buddha from teaching the Dhamma to them.
We as human beings are composed of nama (mind) and rupa (matter) and in order to attain nibbana
(liberation), which is a state beyond nama and rupa, we have to work with both. If we work only with
mental feeling and ignore bodily sensation, then we will know only the sphere of mind, and the sphere
of rupa will be left unexplored. But when we work with the bodily sensation, then we are also
definitely exploring the field of the body and with it the sphere of the mind will also be explored, since
vedana is felt by the mind. Thus kaya-samphassaja vedana is essential for the exploration of the
totality of mind and matter (parinna), and thus also essential for liberation.

Notes: (All references VRI edition)


Mahavagga (Vinaya Pitaka) 1

Samyutta Nikaya 2.4.270
Ibid. 2.4.260
Ibid. 2.4.262
Patthana 1.1.423
Samyutta Nikaya 2.4.251

Samisa and Niramisa in Meditation

Vipassana Research Institute

Samisasamisa in Pali means raw meatraw meat or flesh, or delicious food. Metaphorically, however, it
connotes a defiled state of mind which will only lead to rebirth in this world or another. It refers to a
mind subject to react to sensations (vedana), thereby creating raga (lust or passion for pleasurable
sensations), dosa (aversion for unpleasant ones) and moha (ignorance about the neutral ones). In
contrast to this, the type of mind which remains dispassionate, unattached to the sensations,
understanding them as anicca (impermanent), dukkha (suffering) and anatta (substanceless) is called
The mental activity of an ordinary person always remains samisa (defiled, impure), whereas a
meditator develops the ability to keep his mind niramisaniramisa (pure, undefiledundefiled). He does
so by making every effort to truly comprehend the anicca (transitory) nature of vedana (sensations).
Samisa and niramisa are often used metaphorically by the Buddha, as opposites and in association
with various other terms. Presented here are examples of his figurative explanations of meditation
practice. We are not concerned here with the popular modern meaning as vegetarian (niramisa) and
non-vegetarian (samisa), as they have sometimes been interpreted.
In the Mahasatipatthana Suttamahasatipatthana sutta, in the section on Vedananupassana, the terms
samisa and niramisa occur in reference to the three types of vedana-sukha (pleasant), dukkha
(unpleasant) and adukkhamasukha (neutral)-which a meditator is instructed to comprehend
thoroughly as anicca (impermanent). Again, in the Anguttara Nikaya,1 it is said that sukha vedana
(pleasant sensation) may be samisa (defiled) or niramisa (undefiled). It emphasizes that the latter is
superior to the former. Elsewhere the term samisa (sometimes spelled amisa) is used as an opposite
to Dhamma. For example, Dhammadanadhammadana (the gift of Dhammagift of dhamma) is said to
be superior to amisadana (ordinary donation). In the same way, Dhammayogadhammayoga (joined
with Dhammajoined with dhamma), Dhammacagadhammacaga (Dhamma generositydhamma
generosity) and Dhammabhogadhammabhoga (Dhamma wealthdhamma wealth) are designated as
superior to the respective terms associated with amisa.2
In the Patisambhidamagga,3 the terms amisaamisa and niramisa are connected with a number of
words-uppada (arising), pavatta (conduct), nimitta (image), ayuhana (relinquishing life), patisandhi
(conception), gati (going), nibbatti (rebirth), upapatti (rebirth), jati (birth), jara (aging), byadhi
(illness), maranam (death), soka (sorrow), parideva (lamentation) and upayasa (despair). All these
terms should be understood in their context, but in each case niramisa is opposed to and superior to
When any vedana (sensation) arises because of contact at any of the six sense doors, an ordinary
person will naturally start reacting to the vedana. Sukha vedana (pleasant sensation) elicits lust,
dukkha vedana (unpleasant sensation) elicits aversion and adukkhamasukha vedana (neutral
sensation) elicits the reaction of ignorance. Being ignorant of the real nature of the sensation, aniccata
(impermanence), one remains attached and continues to flow in the stream of rebirthstream of
rebirth. As a result, all the kamasukha (worldly objects) are characterised as samisa, just as all the
vedana which lead to bhavacakka (the cycle of birth and death) are samisa (defiled).4
In the Niramisa Suttaniramisa sutta of the Samyutta Nikaya,5 samisa and niramisa are connected to
the terms piti (joy), sukha (delight), upekkha (equanimity) and vimokkha (deliverance) as they are
experienced in different stages of jhana (absorptions). It says that an ordinary person can only
experience the qualities of piti, sukha and upekkha through the kamaguna (five sense doors). As such,
they are always samisa (defiled), leading to misery in this world, and certainly not to liberation.
In contrast, whatever piti (joy), sukha (delight) and upekkha (equanimity) a meditator encounters as
he advances through the first four jhana, it is niramisa (undefiled) because it is increasingly detached
from sense pleasures and mental pain or pleasure. They are characterised as niramisa piti, niramisa
sukha and niramisa upekkha and are said to be far superior to that experienced by an ordinary
By practising jhanajhana, a meditator escapes the kamaloka (sensual world) by attainment of the first

four, but he is still attached to the rupa-loka (world of form). The vimokkha (deliverance) of the first
four jhana is described as samisa-vimokkha in comparison to the deliverance which a meditator
attains by transcending each level from the fifth to the eighth jhana respectively. As these stages of
samadhi (concentration) are more subtle and superior to the previous four jhana, the associated
vimokkha (deliverance) is described as niramisa-vimokkha by comparison.
At the stage of the eighth jhana, however, the meditator is still attached to the arupaloka (formless
worlds) and so his vimokkha (deliverance) is still partial in comparison to the final stage of nibbana.
Buddha says that the piti (joy), sukha (delight), upekkha (equanimity) or vimokkha (deliverance) that
an emancipated person experiences cannot be compared with that experienced in any of the jhanas. It
is a stage of purity beyond all others, hence it is described as niramisataraniramisatara, purest of the
purepurest of the pure, the stage par excellence, where all the asavas (cankers) are destroyed, the
heart is free from lust, hatred and illusion and the meditator is firmly established in vimuttivimutti
(liberation)Yo kho, bhikkhave, khinasavassa bhikkhuno ragacittam vimutto paccavekkhato uppajjati piti...
sukham... upekkha... vimokkho. Ayam vuccati niramisa niramisataroniramisataro vimokkho.7
Of the meditator who has attained this prime state of mind in meditation, the Buddha saysSantakayo santavacosantakayo santavaco, santava susamahito;
Vantalokamiso bhikkhu, upasantoti vuccati.8
Calm of body, calm of speech, well concentrated, the monk who has left behind worldly desires is
called 'supremely calm'.
Notes: (All references VRI edition)

Anguttara Nikaya 1.2.65-77, Sukhavagga

Ibid. 2.8.37, Danavagga
Patisambhidamagga 1.213
Op. cit. 2.4.279
Also cf, Mahasatipatthana Sutta, op. cit.; Pancattaya Sutta; Majjhima NikayaAnapana Sutta; 3.21
Samyutta Nikaya 2.4.279
Dhammapada, Bhikkhuvagga 378s

Sampajanna-the Constant Thorough Understanding of Impermanence

Vipassana Research Institute
In the previous paper on sampajanna, we discussed sampajanna as it is defined etymologically in the
Abhidhamma Pitaka and commentaries. In the present paper, we will discuss how sampajanna or
sampajana is explained by the Buddha in the suttas and how the term can be correctly translated into
Whenever the Buddha was asked to describe sati (mindfulness or awareness), his explanation
invariably included the term sampajanna.
Katama ca bhikkhave, samma-satisamma-sati? Idha, bhikkhave, bhikkhu
kaye kayanupassi viharati atapi sampajano satima vineyya loke
And what, meditators, is right awareness? Here, a meditator dwells ardently, with constant thorough
understanding and right awareness, observing the body in the body, having removed craving and
aversion towards this world (of mind and matter).
From this it becomes evident that according to the Buddha, whenever there is sammasati or

satipatthana, it is always with sampajanna. That means it is with panna (wisdom). Otherwise it is
mere sati, which is mere remembrance or awareness.
In the Suttapitaka, the Buddha gave two explanations of the term sampajanna. In the Samyutta
Nikaya, he defines sampajano as followsKathanca, bhikkhave, bhikkhu sampajano hoti? Idha, bhikkhave, bhikkhu vidita vedana
uppajjantividita vedana uppajjanti, vidita upatthahanti, vidita abbhattham gacchanti; vidita sanna
uppajjanti, vidita upatthahanti, vidita abbhattham gacchanti; vidita vitakka uppajjanti, vidita
upatthahanti, vidita abbhattham gacchanti. Evam kho, bhikkhave, bhikkhu sampajano hoti.2
And how, meditators, does a meditator understand thoroughly? Herein, meditators, a meditator knows
sensations arising in him, knows their persisting, and knows their vanishing; he knows perceptions
arising in him, knows their persisting and knows their vanishing; he knows each initial application (of
the mind on an object) arising in him, knows its persisting and knows its vanishing. This, meditators,
is how a meditator understands thoroughly.
In the above statement, it becomes clear that one is sampajana only when one realizes the
characteristic of impermanence, and that too on the basis of experience of sensation (vidita vedana).
If it is not realized through vedana, then it is merely an intellectualisation, because our fundamental
contact with the world is based on sensation. It is directly through sensation that experience occurs.
The statement further indicates that sampajana lies in experiencing the impermanence of vedana,
vitakkavedana, vitakka (the initial application of the mind on an object) and sanna (perception). Here
we should note that impermanence of vedana is to be realized first because according to the BuddhaVedana-samosarana sabbe dhammavedana-samosarana sabbe dhamma.3
Everything that arises in the mind is accompanied by sensation.
The second explanation given by the Buddha of sampajanna emphasises that it must be continuous.
He statesKathanca bhikkhave bhikkhu sampajano hoti? Idha bhikkhave bhikkhu abhikkante patikkante
sampajanakari hoti. Alokite vilokite sampajanakari hoti. Saminjite pasarite sampajanakari hoti.
Sanghati-patta-civara-dharane sampajanakari hoti. Asite pite khayite sayite sampajanakari hoti.
Uccara-passava-kamme sampajanakari hoti. Gate thite nisinne sutte jagarite bhasite tunhi-bhave
sampajanakari hoti.4
And how, meditators does a meditator understand thoroughlyhow does a meditator understand
thoroughly?? Again, meditators, a meditator in going forwards and backwards understands
impermanence thoroughly, in looking straight ahead and sideways understands impermanence
thoroughly, in bending and stretching understands impermanence thoroughly, in chewing and drinking,
eating and savouring understands impermanence thoroughly, in wearing the double fold robe, alms
bowl and single fold robe (in the case of a monk), understands impermanence thoroughly, in attending
to the calls of nature understands impermanence thoroughly, in walking, standing, sitting, sleeping
and waking, speaking and remaining silent understands impermanence thoroughly.
The same passage has been repeated in other suttas, including the section on sampajanna under
kayanupassana in the Mahasatipatthana Suttamahasatipatthana sutta.
The emphasis on continuity of sampajannacontinuity of sampajanna is very clear. One should develop
constant thorough understanding of impermanence, in whatever one does, walking forward and
backward, in looking straight and sideways, in bending and stretching, in wearing robes and so on. So
much so, that in sitting, in standing and even in sleeping, one has to experience constant thorough
understanding of impermanence. This is sampajanna.
With proper understanding of the teaching of Buddha, it becomes clear that if this continuous
sampajanna consists only of the thorough understanding of the processes of walking, eating and other

activities of the body, then it is merely sati. If, however, the constant thorough understanding includes
the characteristic of arising and passing away of vedana while the meditator is performing these
activities, then this is panna. This is what the Buddha wanted people to practise.
The Buddha describes this more specifically in a passage from the Anguttara Nikaya, using language
that is bound to bring to mind the sampajanna-pabba of the Mahasatipatthana SuttaYatam care yatam titthe, yatam acche yatam saye;
Yatam saminjaye bhikkhu, yatamenam pasaraye.
Uddham tiriyam apacinam, yavata jagato gati;
Samavekkhita ca dhammanam, khandhanam udayabbayam.5
Let one walk with restraint, stand with restraint, sit with restraint, lay down with restraint. Let the
meditator bend with restraint, stretch with restraint, upwards, across, backwards, as long he is in the
course of the world, observing the arising and passing away of the aggregates.
Thus the emphasis is on the continuity of awareness of anicca (impermanence) with the base of body
sensation. The Buddha frequently stressed that the meditator should not lose the thorough
understanding of impermanence even for a moment-sampajannam na rincatisampajannam na
rincati.6 For a meditator who follows his advice on the proper practice of Vipassana, being sampajana
without any interruption, the Buddha gives the following assurance-either the meditator will attain the
highest stage (arahant) or the penultimate stage (anagamita).7
In order for meditators to understand the term sampajanna, we have translated it as-'The constant
thorough understanding of impermanence'. It is felt that this translation conveys more fully the
precise meaning of the term used by the Buddha. If the term sampajanna is translated too concisely
into English its meaning can be lost. It has usually been translated as clear comprehension, bare
comprehension, etc. At first glance, these translations appear to be correct. However, some have
taken this to mean that one must merely have clear comprehension of bodily activities. Interpretations
such as this may have had the effect of misleading some meditators on the path of Dhamma. To try
and minimize any confusions for meditators the more wordy translation- 'the constant thorough
understanding of impermanence'- has been chosen.

Notes: (All references VRI edition)


Digha Nikaya 2.402

Samyutta Nikaya 3.5.401
Anguttara Nikaya 3.8.83
Digha Nikaya 2.160
Anguttara Nikaya 1.4.12
Samyutta Nikaya 2.4.251
Digha Nikaya 2.404

The Parinnaya of Vedana

Vipassana Research Institute
The teaching of the Buddha can be summarized asDukkham ca, dukkhanirodham cadukkham ca, dukkha-nirodham ca.
There is suffering and there is the cessation of suffering.
He elucidated this in the paticcasamuppada (Law of Dependent Origination), the cattari ariya-saccani
(The Four Noble Truths), the ariyo atthangiko maggo (The Noble Eightfold Path) and the cattaro

satipatthana (The Fourfold Establishing of Awareness) - all of them very important teachings on
suffering and its cessation.
In the paticcasamuppada, he expounded the process of dukkha (suffering) as twelve ordered causal
links (anuloma) and the cessation of dukkha as the reverse process of breaking the links (patiloma).
The arising of suffering is tanha (craving). The paticcasamuppada states that-dependent on vedana
there arises tanha, and if vedana ceases then the tanha automatically ceasesVedana-nirodha, tanha-nirodhovedana-nirodha, tanha-nirodho.
If sensation is eradicated, craving is eradicated.
The cessation of craving is nibbana. Emphasising vedana in the practice of The Eightfold Path, the
Buddha saidTisso ima, bhikkhave, vedana. Katama tisso? Sukha vedana, dukkha
vedana, adukkhamasukha vedana. Ima kho, bhikkhave, tisso vedana.
Imasam kho, bhikkhave, tissannam vedananam parinnaya ariyo
atthangiko maggo bhavetabbo.1
There are, meditators, three types of vedana (sensations). What are the three? They are pleasant
sensations, unpleasant sensations and neutral sensations. Meditators, it is for knowing these three
types of sensations in totality that the Noble Eightfold Path should actually be practised.
In the same sutta, he addsTisso ima, bhikkhave, vedanatisso vedana. Katama tisso? Sukha vedana, dukkha vedana,
adukkhamasukha vedana. Ima kho, bhikkhave, tisso vedana.
Imasam kho, bhikkhave, tissannam vedananam abhinnaya parinnaya parikkhayaya pahanaya... ariyo
atthangiko maggo bhavetabbo.2
There are, meditators, three types of vedana (sensations). What are the three? They are pleasant
sensations, unpleasant sensations and neutral sensations Meditators, it is for the full realisation of
these three sensations, for their knowing in totality, for their gradual eradication and for their
abandonment that the Noble Eightfold Path should actually by practised.
In the Dhammacakkappavattana Suttadhammacakkappavattana sutta, he describes three steps
In the realisation of dukkhaIdam dukkham ariyasaccam ti me... tam kho panidam dukkham
ariyasaccam parinneyyam ti me... tam kho panidam dukkham
ariyasaccam parinnatam ti me...3
This is the noble truth of suffering...
This truth of suffering must be known in totality...
and this noble truth of suffering is completely known.
The knowing of suffering is of utmost importance; unless a person knows suffering, he is not able to
come out of it. Elsewhere, the Buddha uses vedana as a synonym of suffering.4 Therefore to know
vedana is to know suffering, and vedana has to be known in the same way as dukkha.
In the Vedana samyutta of Samyutta Nikaya the Buddha said about satipatthanaTisso ima, bhikkhave, vedana, katama tisso? Sukha vedana, dukkha
vedana, adukkhamasukha vedana. Ima kho, bhikkhave, tisso vedana.
Imasam kho, bhikkhave, tissannam vedananam parinnaya cattaro
satipatthana bhavetabba.5
There are meditators, three types of sensations. What are these three? Pleasant sensations,

unpleasant sensations, and sensations which are neither unpleasant nor pleasant. Practise meditators,
Fourfold Establishment in Awareness (cattaro satipatthana) to get to know these three sensations in
Then he states what is to be known about vedanaYato ca bhikkhu atapi, sampajannam na rincatiatapi, sampajannam na rincati,
tato so vedana sabba, parijanati pandito.
So vedana parinnaya, ditthe dhamme anasavo
kayassa bheda dhammattho, sankham nopeti vedagu ti.6
When a meditator, striving ardently, does not lose the thorough understanding of impermanence even
for a moment, then such a wise person knows the totality of all the physical sensations. Having thus
known the totality of sensationstotality of sensations, being freed from all impurities, he realizes the
nibbanic stage. Then at the end of his life such a person, established in Dhamma and knowing
sensations in totality, attains the indescribable stage from which he does not return to the world of
A notable feature of the above quotation is the frequent use of the term parinnayaparinnaya in
connection with vedana.
Let us now analyse what parinnaya is and its importance in patipatti (the practice of Dhamma).
The term parinnaya is grammatically in the instrumental case, but actually in form and meaning it is
the gerund of parijanatiparijanati (instead of the usual parijanitva).7 It is derived from the root 'na',
which means 'to know', with a prefix 'pari' meaning 'fully' or 'in totality'. Hence, the English translation
of the term is-'knowing in totality, having exact or accurate knowledge of an object, thorough
understanding, total understanding, full understanding of an object or profound knowledge of
something'. Tissannam vedananam parinnaya, for the practicioner, means, that the entire field of
vedana has been explored by direct experience.
The tradition mentions three kinds of parinnas1. Nata-parinna (differentiating knowledgedifferentiating knowledge)
2. Tirana-parinna (analytical knowledgeanalytical knowledge)
3. Pahana-parinna (dispelling knowledgedispelling knowledge)
1. Nata-parinnanata-parinna refers to accurately or thoroughly knowing and differentiating between
the empirical truth (sammutisacca) and the ultimate truth, (paramattha sacca).
2. Tirana-parinnatirana-parinna refers to knowing analytically in detail about an object and
understanding its true nature.
3. Pahana-parinnapahana-parinna refers to knowing the object to the point where it totally ceases,
which means one has covered the entire (paridhi) field of the object. By practising nata-parinna and
tirana-parinna, one attains pahana-parinna, the cessation of the object (nirodha). If the object is
vedana, then pahana-parinna is where vedana totally ceases. Only then can the entire field of vedana
be said to have been thoroughly explored to the end (pariyanta) and transcended. Therefore, the
ultimate state of liberation-a state of sanna-vedayita-nirodhasanna-vedayita-nirodha where sanna and
vedana cease-is the result of vedana parinnaya at the level of pahana-parinna. This is only possible if
the arising and passing away of vedana is observed from the beginning to the end, only then can it be
complete (paripunna).
Let us understand these three types of parinna with the help of an illustration. A Vipassana meditator
wants to cross a river of vedana.cross a river vedana. The first step is to enter the river and
experience that it is not permanent. Although the river seems to be the same, there is a constant flow
of water. It keeps on passing away allowing more to follow. Similarly, each vedana seems to be the

same, but ultimately each is impermanent, each rapidly passing away. This is nata-parinna which
differentiates between the apparent and ultimate truth.
Going deeper he finds that even if he tries to observe vedana objectively, being a beginner, he is again
liable to sink into the depths of reaction, rolling and reeling. For a short time, his head arises above
the surface, then again sinks below and he is carried away by the current towards unknown
As the experience repeats itself, gradually it becomes clear to him that his mind is conditioned to
wallow in sensations, relishing the pleasant (assada) and so generating aversion towards the
As he continues, learning to observe the vedana objectively, he realizes the danger (adinava) in this
situation, craving and aversion reinforce vedana which in turn reinforce the reaction, creating a vicious
cycle. The successful swimmer starts to emerge from this habit and develops equanimity,
understanding the impermanence of vedana. As he does so, he breaks the vicious cycle of misery, at
least temporarily, and stops suffering. He now knows what suffering is, how it begins and multiplies.
This is tirana-parinna-all vedana are anicca (impermanent), dukkha (suffering) and anatta
(substanceless). As he continues to work properly, the meditator is able to swim easily in vedana
without reacting.
As a result, a moment comes when he is able to successfully cross the river and reach the other
shorereach the other shore. Stepping out of the river of vedana, he experiences the nissarana, that is,
the emergence from the entire field of vedana. This is called pahana-parinna. At this stage, he has a
foothold on a field totally different from vedana, on the shore beyond the river. He has gone beyond
vedana, and reached vedana-nirodha (total cessation of vedana). This is how nata-parinna and tiranaparinna lead to pahana parinna where vedana is totally eradicated and the entire river of vedana is
crossed. In the words of the BuddhaVedananam samudayam ca atthangamam ca assadam ca adinavam ca nissaranam ca yathabhutam
viditva anupadavimuttoanupadavimutto, bhikkhave, Tathagato.7
Having experienced as they really are the origin and passing away of sensations, the relishing of them,
the danger in them, and the escape from them, the Tathagata, meditators, is emancipated by nonclingingemancipated by non-clinging.
This is the practice of vedana-parinnaya-to reach dukkha-nirodha by crossing the entire river of
Notes: (All references VRI edition)
1. Samyutta Nikaya 3.5.29
2. Ibid. 3.5.169
3. Mahavagga (Vinaya Pitaka), 15; PTS 11- Yam kinci vedayitam, tam dukkhasmim ti. Majjhima
Nikaya 3.299
4. Samyutta Nikaya 3.5.414-415
5. Samyutta Nikaya,3.5.415
6. Pali-English Dictionary, ed. T.W. Rhys Davids, Pali Text Society, London, 1925, p. 425
7. Digha Nikaya 1.36

The Importance of Vedana and Sampajanna in Vipassana Meditation

Vipassana Research Institute
The Buddha taught the method that he himself practised. Unlike some of his contemporaries, who
propagated systems of blind belief, the Buddha's emphasis was on a system of direct experience

(paccanubhotipaccanubhoti). On the basis of his own life experience, he identified dukkha (suffering)
as the universal disease and re-discovered the way leading to the eradication of this disease and so to
a state of eternal happiness-paramam sukhamparamam sukham.1 This was achieved through the
practice of Vipassana.
Etymologically, the word has been derived from the root 'pas' which means 'to see' with the prefix 'vi'
which means 'visesa'-in a special manner or 'vividham'-from different angles. Thus literally the term
Vipassana communicates the sense of observing or seeing in a special manner-Visesato passatiti
vipassanavisesena passati ti vipassana2 or Aniccadivasena vividhena akarena passati ti vipassana3.
(He sees from different angles as impermanent etc., thus it is Vipassana.)
This process is also described as seeing things as they really are (yatha bhuta nana dassanamyatha
bhuta nana dassanam), not as they appear to be.
Pannattim thapetvapannattim thapetva visesena passati ti vipassana.
Putting aside concept, he sees in a special way, thus it is Vipassana.
Through this practice, the basic characteristic of anicca (impermanence) becomes clear. Thus the text
statesAniccadivasena dhammeaniccadivasena dhamme passati ti vipassana.4
He sees phenomena as impermanent etc., thus it is Vipassana.
Once anicca has been well understood, the characteristics of dukkha (suffering) and anatta
(egolessness) also become clear.
The most direct, natural, immediate way to experience impermanence is by observing sensations
within ourselves because they are the most easily observed expression of the characteristic of anicca.
By observing them, we are able to understand the reality not merely intellectually, but directly by
Tisso ima, bhikkhave, vedana anicca sankhata paticcasamuppanna khaya-dhamma vaya-dhamma
viraga-dhamma nirodha-dhamma.5
These three types of sensations, O meditators, are impermanent, compounded, arising owing to a
cause, perishable, by nature passing away, detached and ceasing.
In the Brahmajala Suttabrahmajala sutta, the Buddha said that he achieved his enlightenment by
observing the entire field of vedana and its cessationVedananam samudayam ca atthangamam ca assadam ca adinavam ca nissaranam ca yatha-bhutam
viditva anupada-vimutto, bhikkhave Tathagato.6
Having experienced as they really are, the arising of sensations, their passing away, the relishing in
them, the danger in them, and the release from them, the Enlightened One, O monks, has become
free without grasping.
Explaining how and where these sensations are to be observed he saidSeyyathapi, bhikkhave, agantukagaramagantukagaram. Tattha puratthimaya pi disaya agantva vasam
kappenti, pacchimaya pi disaya...uttaraya pi disaya... dakkhinaya pi disaya... khattiya pi... brahmana
pi... vessa pi... sudda pi... Evameva kho, bhikkhave, imasmim kayasmim vividha vedana uppajjanti.
Sukha pi vedana uppajjanti, dukkha pi... adukkhamasukha pi... samisa pi sukha... samisa pi dukkha...
samisa pi adukkhamasukha... niramisa pi sukha... niramisa pi dukkha... niramisa pi
adukkhamasukha... vedana uppajjati ti.7
Suppose, O meditators, there is a public guest-housepublic guest-house. People come there to stay

from the east, the west, the north and the south. People who are Kshatriyas, Brahmins, Vaishyas and
Shudras. Similarly, O meditators, various sensations arise in this body. Pleasant bodily sensations,
unpleasant bodily sensations, neither unpleasant nor pleasant bodily sensations, arise. Pleasant bodily
sensations arise with attachment, unpleasant bodily sensations arise with attachment, neither
unpleasant nor pleasant bodily sensations arise with attachment. Pleasant bodily sensations arise
without attachment, unpleasant bodily sensations arise without attachment, neither unpleasant nor
pleasant bodily sensations arise without attachment.
AndYatha pi vata akasevata akase, vayanti vividha puthu;
Puratthima pacchima ca pi, uttara atha dakkhina.
Saraja araja ca pi, sita unha ca ekada;
Adhimatta paritta ca, puthu vayanti maluta.
Tathevimasmim kayasmim, samuppajjanti vedana;
Sukhadukkhasamuppatti, adukkhamasukha ca ya. 8
Just as in the sky different windsas different winds in the sky blow, from east and west, from north
and south, dust-laden or dustless, cold or hot, fierce gales or gentle breezes, many winds blow. So
also pleasant, unpleasant or neutral sensations arise within the body.
How, then, does the observation of these body sensations lead to liberation? What is the release from
vedana which the Buddha declared he had experienced? In the Vedana-samyutta of Samyutta Nikaya
he explainedYam vedanam paticca uppajjati sukham somanassam, ayam vedanaya assado. Ya vedana anicca
dukkha viparinama-dhamma, ayam vedanaya adinavo. Yo vedanaya chandaraga-vinayo
chandaragappahanam, idam vedanaya nissaranam.9
The relishing of sensation is the physical and mental happiness arising from sensations. The danger in
sensations is that they are impermanent, the cause of suffering, and subject to change. The escape or
release from sensations is the removal and abandonment of craving for the stimulation of sensations.
Relishing sensations is the habit of an untrained mindhabit of an untrained mind. This habit generates
tanha (craving) with every sensation one experiences. Observing them, however, one understands
that they are all impermanent and therefore suffering. Realising this, the meditator no longer develops
craving but instead becomes an impartial observer. By doing so, he sets in motion a process by which
the old conditioning of the mind manifests itself in sensations.
The more he observes dispassionately with the understanding of anicca, the deeper are the layers of
impurities that arise and get eradicated. The Buddha saidYato ca bhikkhu atapi, sampajannam na rincatiatapi, sampajannam na rincati;
tato so vedana sabba, parijanati pandito.10
When a meditator, striving ardently, does not lose sampajanna, the thorough understanding of
impermanence, even for a moment, such a wise person fully comprehends and experiences all
sensations by exploring the entire field.
By constantly observing the sensations in the body, one experiences the arising and passing away.
This constant observation of the body sensations based on the realisation of impermanence is
Thus one who practises sampajannaone who practises sampajanna is a wise person. Instead of
relishing or hating, he constantly observes the sensations with equanimity, understanding thoroughly
their impermanent nature. This practice eliminates the very habit of reacting as well as the stock of
past conditioning of the mind. In doing so, the meditator frees his mind from craving, aversion and
ignorance, from all the defilements of the mind, and goes beyond vedana. He attains nibbana, the
final emancipation. In the words of the Buddha-

So vedana parinnaya, ditthe dhamme anasavo,

kayassa bheda dhammattho, sankham nopeti vedagu ti.12
By understanding sensations in their totality, a serious seeker (in this very life) becomes freed of all
defilements and becomes an arahanta or vedagu. Such a person, who is vedagu (one who has
experienced the entire field of vedana and has gone beyond), is established in Dhamma, and after
death, he attains the indescribable state beyond the conditioned world, nibbana.

Notes: (All references VRI edition)

1. Majjhima Nikaya 2.215-216
2. Visuddhimagga-Mahatika 2.427, Dukamatikapadavannana
3. Atthasalini, 124-134
4. From the discourses of Sayagyi U Ba Khin
5. Samyutta Nikaya 2.4.257
6. Digha Nikaya 1.36
7. Samyutta Nikaya 2.4.262
8. Ibid. 2.4.260
9. Ibid. 2.4.263
10. Ibid. 2.4.260
11. For explanation, see Samyutta Nikaya 3.5.399-404
12. Samyutta Nikaya 2.4.251

The Four Sampajanna

Vipassana Research Institute
Maintaining the continuity of the thorough understanding of impermanence based on vedana
(sensation)1 is called sampajanna. The Atthakathakara (the commentators) have further explained
this term in various ways to clarify its meaning.
A few of these explanations followSamma pakarehi aniccadini janati ti sampajannam2.
One who knows in a right way impermanence as well as suffering and egolessness has wisdom, has
Samantato pakarehi pakattham va savisesam janati ti sampajano.3
One who understands the totality clearly with wisdom from all angles (of whatever is manifesting) or
who knows distinctly has sampajanna.
Samma samantato samanca pajananto sampajano.4
One who knows in a right way, in totality through one's own wisdom is sampajana.
These definitions convey the same sense as found in the canonical texts of anicca (impermanence),
and its continuity. In the commentaries and the subcommentaries, sampajanna is also elaborated in a
fourfold way1. satthaka-sampajanna (purposeful sampajanna),
2. sappaya- sampajanna (beneficial sampajanna),

3. gocara-sampajanna (domain sampajanna),

4. asammoha-sampajanna (non-delusion sampajanna).

1. Satthaka-sampajanna (purposeful sampajanna)

The Pali term satthaka (sa + attha = with meaning) means useful or purposeful. The sense here is in
distinguishing between what is useful and what is not. For a meditator who is treading on the path of
Dhamma (satthaka), the most useful, purposeful thing is something that can help in the realisation of
paramattha sacca (ultimate truth), the cessation of suffering. To attain it, one has to totally eradicate
the sankhara, which are the source of all suffering. For this, one has to realize anicca
(impermanence), the arising and passing away at the level of sensations. Thus, the usefulness and
purposefulness of sampajanna lies only in leading meditators to realize impermanence, which alone is
beneficial in the attainment of their life's mission, nibbana. This is the true sense of satthaka
sampajanna. The continuity of practice should be maintained in all activities, such as moving forward
or backward, going for begging alms, or going to visit a cetiya (shrine) etc.

2. Sappaya-sampajannam (beneficial sampajanna)

The term sappaya means beneficial. Knowing in totality for one's own benefit with wisdom is sappaya
sampajannam.5 The most beneficial thing for a meditator is to move on the path which leads to the
attainment of nibbana. The experience of anicca based on body sensation is the most beneficial tool,
since by mere observation of its arising and passing away, with objectivity and continuity, one goes
beyond the sphere of sensations to a state beyond mind and matter.

3. Gocara-sampajannam (domain sampajanna)

The literal term gocara (go + cara) means the field where the cow moves, but here the term refers to
domain. Technically, when the term is used in meditation, it has two meanings- (i) while a meditator
dwells internally, it means the body is the domain of his meditation; (ii) it also means the external
movements of the meditator, eg., going for begging alms etc., (gocara).6
Thus the significance of gocara sampajanna lies in maintaining constant thorough understanding of
impermanence, both while meditating and while performing worldly activities.7

4. Asammoha-sampajanna (non-delusion sampajanna)

The term asammoha means non-delusion or without ignorance. It refers to the non-ignorance of
having thorough understanding of what is happening both inside and outside the body. The realisation
of impermanence is asammoha (non-delusion). Therefore with the experience of anicca, a meditator
will be able to understand through direct experience, three of the four paramattha dhamma-citta
(consciousness), cetasika (psychic factors), and rupa (material qualities). All these are samkhata
dhamma (conditioned). By observing these dhamma objectively as anicca, one reaches the state
where there is no arising and passing away, which is the fourth paramattha dhamma-nibbana.
Although the Buddha did not mention these four sampajanna in the Canon they are found in the
Atthakatha. If we analyse each of them, we find that they are not separate from one another but have
the same goal, the realisation of anicca (anicca-bodha). Anicca-bodha is our real purpose (satthaka).
It is beneficial (sappaya) for us and is the domain (gocara) of our meditation, leading to right
understanding (asammoha), that ultimately results in the final emancipation- nibbana.

Notes: (All references VRI edition)

1. Vidita vedana uppajjanti, vidita upatthahanti, vidita abbhattham gacchanti... Samyutta Nikaya
3. 5. 401. And Abhikkante patikkante sampajanakari hoti... Digha Nikaya 2. 376
2. Dhammasangani Atthakatha 16, Kamavacarakusalapadabhajaniyam
3. Digha Nikaya Tika 2. 376
4. Samyutta Nikaya Tika 3. 5. 367
5. Sappayassa attano upakaravahassa hitassa sampajananam sappayasampajannam. Digha Nikaya
Tika 1. 109
6. Abhikkamadisu bhikkhacaragocare annatthapi pavattesu avijahita kammatthanasankhate gocare
sampajannam. Ibid. 2. 4. 198
7. Abhikkante patikkante sampajanakari hoti... Digha Nikaya 1. 376

The Buddha and His Noble Path, Venerable Nanissara, Myanmar

Six hundred and twenty three years before Jesus Christ, on the full moon day of May, in the
Rupandehi district of the Kingdom ofNepal, at Lumbini in a lovely garden full of green shady Sala
groves, Sakya Prince Siddhattha Gotama, the Buddha, who would become the greatest religious
teacher in the world, was born.
His father, Suddhodana, was the ruler of the Kingdom of the Sakyas; his mother was Queen Maya.
Mauryan Emperor Ashoka visited this sacred birthplace of the Buddha in 239 BC. In commemoration of
his visit, he erected a stone pillar. The inscription on the pillar testifies not only to the location of the
Lumbini gardens but also to the birthplace of the Buddha.
The inscription reads as follows-'When King Devanan Priyadarsina Raja had been anointed twenty
years, he himself came and paid respect to this spot because the Buddha Sakyamuni was born here.'
In 588 BC, on the full moon day of May, under a Bodhi tree growing on the bank of the Neranjara
River near Gaya (now in modern Bihar, India), at the age of 35, Siddhattha Gotama attained
Enlightenment. During the first watch of that wonderful night (Vesaka Punnima), the Blessed One
acquired knowledge of his previous existences; in the second watch, penetrated the Law of Dependent
Origination; and, finally, at sunrise, attained Omniscience. After this, he was known as the Buddha,
'The Perfect Enlightened One'. He was not born as a Buddha, but was a human being who became a
Buddha by his own striving.
In 543 BC, on the full moon day of May (Vesaka Punnima), in the Sala grove Southwest of Kusinagar
capital of the Mallas (in modern Uttar Pradesh, India), the Buddha, founder of the greatest religion,
and the greatest teacher of all men and gods, passed into parinibbana (complete extinction), at the
age of 80. When the Blessed One was entering into parinibbana, he addressed the assembly of
bhikkhus saying- 'Brethren, now behold, I exhort you, decay is inherent in all conditioned things, but
the Truth will remain forever! Work out your salvation and liberation with earnestness and diligence.'
These were the last words of the Buddha.
When the Buddha thus entered nibbana, there arose, at the moment of his passing out of existence, a
mighty earthquake-terrible and awe-inspiring; the thunder of heaven burst forth, and those of the
bhikkhus who were not yet free from passion stretched out their arms and wept, some fell headlong
on the ground in anguish at the thought-'Too soon has the Buddha passed away! Too soon has the
Tathagata passed away from existence! Too soon has the Light of the World gone out! Too soon has
the Eye of the World disappeared!'
The brilliant lamp was extinguished! But the lamp of the Dhamma, that is, the Buddha's teaching
exists forever and will light the way of countless numbers of beings in our world across the stream of
life and death to nibbana.
It has been twenty-five centuries since Siddhattha Gotama, the Sakya Prince who became the Buddha,

passed away. But His Words, His Teachings, His Path, His Philosophy, His Discipline, and His Truths
have not passed away. These Dhammas remain even now as the guide to life for innumerable beings.
Among the founders of religions, the Buddha is the only teacher who did not claim to be anything
other than a human being. Other teachers claimed to be either God or his incarnation in different
forms. The Buddha was a human being; he claimed no inspiration from any God or other external
power. He attributed all his realisations, attainments and achievements to human endeavour and
human intelligence. A man and only a man can became a Buddha, if he so wills it and endeavours
after it. We call the Buddha a man 'par-excellence'. He was so perfect in his 'humanness' that he came
to be regarded later in popular religion as 'super-human'.
The moral, philosophical, practical and ethical systems expounded by the Buddha are called the
Dhamma, and are more popularly known as Buddhism. Strictly speaking, Buddhism is not a religion,
in that it is not a system of faith and worship owing any allegiance to a supernatural Supreme Being.
Buddhism is a course or way that guides a disciple, through pure living and pure thinking, to gain
Supreme Wisdom and deliverance from all defilements. In Buddhism, there is no god or creator to be
feared or obeyed. Instead of placing an unseen almighty God over man, the Buddha raised the worth
of human beings. Buddha taught that man could gain salvation by self-exertion without depending on
any god. If by religion we mean a system of deliverance from the ills of life, then Buddhism is the
religion above all religions.
The foundation of Buddhism is the Middle Path. This avoids two extremes; one is the search for
happiness through the pleasures of the senses, which is 'low, common, unprofitable and the way of
ordinary people'; the other is the search for peace through self-mortification-usually in various forms
of asceticism, which is painful, unworthy and unprofitable. The Buddha, having found both to be
useless, avoided them and discovered the new way through his own experience. This is the Middle
Path, which gives clear vision and knowledge that leads to calm, peace, happiness, insight, purification
of mind and enlightenment, cessation of defilements, extinction of suffering, nibbana. This Middle Path
is generally called the Noble Eightfold Path, because it is composed of eight categories, namely1. Right Understanding
2. Right Thought
3. Right Speech
4. Right Action
5. Right Livelihood
6. Right Effort
7. Right Mindfulness
8. Right Concentration
1. Right Understanding is the keynote of Buddhism. It is the knowledge of the Four Noble Truths. To
understand rightly means Right Understanding-to see things as they really are. This understanding is
the highest wisdom, which sees the ultimate reality and absolute truth. These realities and truths are
within us, not outside ourselves. The path to freedom and purity has been well mapped by the Buddha
and countless others who have walked upon it. This is the guide pointing the way to enlightenment. In
the practice of the Noble Eightfold Path, Right Understanding stands at the beginning as well as at its
end. A minimum degree of Right Understanding is necessary at the very beginning because it gives
the right motivation to the other seven factors of the path and gives correct direction to them. In the
beginning, Right Understanding deals with certain natural laws, which govern our everyday lives. One
of the most important of these is the law of kamma, the law of cause and effect. Every action brings a
certain result. When our acts are motivated by greed, hatred or delusion, then pain and suffering

come back to us. When our actions are motivated by generosity, love or wisdom, the results are
happiness and peace. If we integrate this understanding of the law of kamma into our lives, we can
begin more consciously to cultivate and develop wholesome states of mind. The Buddha often stressed
the importance of generosity. Giving is the expression in action of non-greed in the mind. The whole
spiritual path involves letting go; non-clinging and generosity are the manifestation of nonattachment.
Right Understanding also involves a profound subtle knowledge of our true nature. In the course of
meditation practice, it becomes increasingly clear that everything is impermanent. All the elements of
mind and body exist in a moment and pass away, arising and vanishing continuously. The breath
comes in and goes out, thoughts arise and pass away, sensations come into being and vanish. All
phenomena are in constant flux. There is no lasting security to be had in the flow of impermanence.
Deep insight into the selfless motive of all elements begins to offer us a radically different perspective
on our lives and the world. The mind stops grasping and clinging when the microscopic transience of
everything is realized, and when we experience the process of mind and body without the burden of
self. This is the kind of Right Understanding that is developed in meditation through careful and
penetrating observation.
2. Clear vision leads to clear thinking. Therefore, the second factor is Right Thought. Right Thought is
free of sense desire, free of ill will, free of cruelty. This serves the double purpose of eliminating evil
thoughts and developing pure thoughts.
The endless cycle of desire for sense pleasures keeps the mind in turbulence and confusion. Right
thought means becoming aware of sense desires and letting them go. Then the mind becomes lighter.
There is no disturbance, no tension, and we begin to free ourselves from selfishness and
Freedom from ill will means freedom from anger. Anger is a burning fire in the mind and causes great
suffering to others as well. It is helpful to be able to recognise anger and to let it go. Then the mind
becomes light and easy, expressing its natural loving-kindness. Thoughts free of cruelty and
harmfulness are thoughts of compassion, feeling for the suffering of others and wanting to alleviate it.
We should develop thoughts, which are completely free of cruelty towards any living being.
3. Right Thought leads to Right Speech. How we relate to the world, to our environment and to other
people depends upon our speech. The Buddha's teaching is a prescription for putting us into harmony
with our surroundings, for establishing a proper ecology of mind so that we are in accord with others
or with nature around us. The first aspect of relating to the world in this way is right speech. Right
Speech means not speaking what is untrue, or using slanderous, abusive or harsh language, rather
speaking words that are honest and helpful, creating vibrations of peace and harmony.
4. Right Speech must be followed by Right Action. This means not killing, minimising the amount of
pain we inflict on other beings; not stealing, that is, not taking what is not given; and not committing
sexual misconduct, which in the context of our daily life can be basically understood as not causing
suffering to others out of greed or desire for pleasant sensations.
Although we are not always able to see the far-reaching consequences of each of our actions, we
should take care not to create any disturbance in the environment but to emanate peace and
gentleness, love and compassion.
5. Purifying his thoughts, words, and deeds at the outset, the spiritual pilgrim tries to purify his
livelihood. Right Livelihood involves our relationship in the world. This means doing that kind of work
for support and maintenance which is not harmful to others; not engaging in work which involves
killing, stealing or dishonesty. There is a traditional list of occupations, which are considered
unwholesome. It includes the work associated with harmful weapons, intoxicants and poisons and the
work, which causes suffering to human beings and animals. The Dhamma is very active. Most human
beings are dull in understanding, but wisdom and understanding have to be integrated into our lives.
Right Livelihood is an important part of the integration-to make an art of life, to do what we have to
do with awareness.

6. The next three steps on the path have to do primarily with the practice of meditation. The first of
these is in many respects the most important-Right Effort. Right Effort is the energetic will to keep evil
from arising, to get rid of such evil that has already arisen, to produce the good not yet arisen, and to
develop the good that has already arisen. Unless we make the effort, nothing happens. It is said in the
Abhidhamma that effort is the root of all achievement, the foundation of all attainment. If we want to
get to the top of the mountain and just sit at the bottom thinking about it, nothing will happen. It is
through effort of actual climbing of the mountain, by the taking of one step after another that the
summit is reached.
But effort has to be balanced. Being very tense and anxious is a great hindrance. Energy has to be
balanced with tranquillity. In our practice, we have to be persistent and persevering, but with a
relaxed and balanced mind, making the effort without forcing. There is so much to discover in us, so
many levels of mind to understand. By making effort, the path will unfold. We each have to walk the
path with energetic will to solve the problems of our life.
7. Right Mindfulness means being aware of what is happening in the present moment. It is to be
diligently aware of the activities of the body. It is to be diligently mindful with regard to the activities
of sensations or feeling, perception, ideas, thoughts and mind. Mindfulness notices and attends to the
flow of things-when walking, to the movement of the body. It observes the breath in-the breath out.
Whatever the object is, mindfulness seeks to notice it, to be aware of it without grasping, which is
greed; without condemning, which is hatred; without forgetting, which is delusion; just observing the
flow, observing the process. Mindfulness brings the qualities of poise, equilibrium and balance to the
8. Right Effort and Right Mindfulness lead to Right Concentration. The mindfulness of breathing is a
very popular method for establishing concentration in the meditator's world. Concentration on
breathing leads to one-pointedness of the mind and ultimately to insight, which enables one to attain
enlightenment. The Buddha also practised concentration on breathing before he attained
enlightenment. This harmless and fruitful concentration may be practised by any person, irrespective
of religious beliefs.
The most important discourse ever given by the Buddha on mental development or mental culture
(meditation), is called 'The Setting up of Mindfulness' (Satipatthana Sutta). The ways of insight
meditation are given in this discourse. The discourse is divided into four main sections. The first
section deals with our body (kaya); the second with our feeling or sensations (vedana); the third with
the mind (citta), and the fourth with various moral and intellectual subjects (dhamma). It should be
clearly borne in mind that whatever the form of 'meditation' may be, the essential thing is
mindfulness, meaning awareness, attention and observation.
One of the most well known, popular and practical examples of meditation connected with the body is
called the mindfulness or awareness of in and out breathing. For this meditation only, a particular and
definite posture is prescribed in the text. For other forms of meditation given in this course you may
sit, stand, walk or lie down, as you like. But for cultivating mindfulness of in and out breathing, one
should sit according to the text-'cross-legged position, keeping the body erect and mind alert'. Place
the right hand over the left hand. Eyes must be closed. Easterners generally sit cross-legged with
body erect. They sit placing the right foot on the left thigh and the left foot on the right thigh. This is
the full lotus position. Sometimes they sit in the half position, that is, by simply placing the right foot
on the left thigh or left foot on the right thigh. When the triangle position is assumed, the whole body
is well balanced. But sitting cross-legged is not practical and easy for westerners. Those who find the
cross-legged posture too difficult may sit comfortably in a chair or any other support sufficiently high
enough to rest the legs on the floor or ground. Assume any posture that is comfortably to you,
keeping the back reasonably straight.
Your hands should be placed comfortably on your lap, and the right hand must be on the left. You
must close your eyes. Keep the body still and steady, relaxed and easy, without being stiff, strained,
cramped, shackled or bent over. Thus, seated in a convenient posture, at a quiet place, you should
establish mindfulness. You should pay attention to the meditation object being mindful and alert, fixing

the awareness on the tip of your nose. Breath in and out as usual without any effort or strain. Do not
control or force the breath in any way, merely stay attentive to the coming of breath-in and the going
of breath-out; let your mind be aware and vigilant of your breathing in and out. When you breathe
you sometimes take deep breaths, sometimes not. This does not matter at all. Breathe normally and
naturally. The only thing is that when you take deep breaths you should be aware whether they are
long or short, in or out. In other words, your mind should be so fully concentrated on your breathingthat you are aware of its natural movements and changes. The important thing is not to move very
often. Forget other things-your surroundings, your environment. Do not open your eyes and look at
anything. It is very important to be patient.
Patience means staying in a state of balance, regardless of what is happening in the body. Stay easy,
relaxed and alert. If we have a patient mind, all things will unfold in a natural and organic way. Being
patient through all these experiences will help us to keep the mind in balance. Another thing for
deepening meditation is silence. Much of the energy that is conserved by not talking can be used for
the development of awareness and mindfulness. As with the meditation practice itself, silence, too,
should be easy and relaxed. By keeping silent, the whole range of mental and physical activity will
become extremely clear. Verbal silence makes possible a deeper silence of mind. Try to cultivate a
sense of aloneness. To do this, it is helpful to suspend preconceptions about yourselves, about
relationships, about other people. At the time of meditation, take time to experience yourself deeply.
When we understand ourselves, then relationships become easy and meaningful. Concentrated efforts
during the meditation on the development of moment-to-moment mindfulness will be directed towards
one goal; the mind will become powerful and penetrating. During the meditation become very mindful
of and notice carefully all your movements. The meditation deepens through the continuity of
When you are seated in a suitable place and in a suitable posture, you should establish mindfulness.
You must pay attention to the meditation object, being mindful and alert, fixing the mind on breathing
in and out. The in-breath and out-breath a group or a heap or a collection of physical phenomena.
When you contemplate or observe or investigate in the body with mindfulness and knowledge, you can
experience four material qualities. They are the elements of extension (earth); cohesion (water); heat
(fire) and motion (air). When you stand up, your feet are touching the ground or floor. When you sit,
the lower parts of your body are touching the carpet or floor. When you sleep, some parts of your
body are touching the bed. There are many touchable parts on your body. Whenever you touch any
part of your body with anything, you can experience the four qualities of elements.
Sometimes the touch will be soft or hard-this is the element of extension. Sometimes you will touch
fluid with your body-this is the element of cohesion. Sometimes you will touch something hot or cold
with your body-this is the element of heat. Sometimes you will touch air, wind or inflation of matter
with your body-this is the element of motion (air). The material elements of our bodies are called
'great' because of their distributive power and constructive power. Our bodies are constituted of these
four great primary elements. The earth, the sun, the moon, the planets and the stars are the same. It
is these very elements, experienced in our body. The power of these elements is enormous. For a
short period of time, the elements are in some kind of balance. Not realising the tremendous
destructive power inherent in them, when they begin to get out of balance, they cause decay, the
dissolution of the body, great pain and death.
There is also pain of the mind-depression, despair, anxiety, worry, anger, hatred, fear, lust, greed,
desire, grief, sorrow, dissatisfaction, jealousy, separation from beloved ones, association with hated
persons, etc, that cause suffering in the mind-body or mental-body.
How long will we remain ensnared in this cycle of rebirth and death, the suffering of this endless
hurrying on, driven by ignorance and craving? Every morning we have to wake up and go day and
night, looking for sense-objects. We are subject to colours, sounds, smell, tastes, touches, thoughts
and sensations in endless repetition. You go throughout the day, you sleep at night and you wake up
to be exposed to the same sense-objects, sensations and thoughts, over and over again.
Therefore, we have to give full attention, full-mindedness to the mental-body. We must observe the
flow of sensation, feelings, thinking, knowing, etc. Whatever appears and disappears from moment to

moment in the mental-body or material-body, you must examine the real thing carefully; observe with
mindfulness; investigate with knowledge. When you do so constantly, the three characteristics of
material-body and mental-body will become evident in your knowledge, that is to say you will see or
know the three signs of mind and matter. They are always changing, not everlasting, and they are
impermanent, suffering and egoless (soulless). After distinguishing these as materiality and mentality,
you should contemplate these three characteristics to develop successive knowledge of insight until
enlightenment is attained and absolute truth-nibbana is realized.
This is insight meditation which leads to insight wisdom, purification, higher supramundane wisdom,
final liberation, real happiness, ultimate peace, cessation of suffering, absolute truth-nibbana.
Concentration meditation is the mental state of one-pointedness. It leads to mystic power and
supernatural power. Insight meditation is the knowledge of wisdom, which penetrates the three
characteristics of mind and matter. It leads to the highest wisdom, enlightenment, noble truth,
absolute truth-nibbana.
In conclusion, the great benefit of mindfulness on breathing in and out should be understood as the
basic condition for the perfection of clear vision, final liberation and purification of the mind. For this
had been said by the Buddha, 'Bhikkhus, mindfulness of breathing, when developed and much
practised, perfects the four foundations of mindfulness. The four foundations of mindfulness when
developed and much practised, perfect the seven enlightenment factors, and the seven enlightenment
factors when developed and much practised lead to clear vision and liberation'.
So, I wish fervently as follows-may all you brothers and sisters, who are willing to enjoy cessation of
suffering, pain, sorrow and lamentation try and practise the foundation of mindfulness that gives real
happiness, peace and cessation of all forms of suffering.
Thank you very much, my dear brothers and sisters.
Sitagu Vihara, Sagaing Hills, Sagaing, Myanmar

Vipassana and Vedana as Understood by a Novice

U Tin Lwin
It may not be impertinent to say at the outset of this small paper something about the purpose of the
Buddhist bhavana (mental development). The purpose, in brief, is to liberate oneself totally from what
Buddhists consider as dukkha (suffering or unsatisfactoriness). Total liberation from dukkha means
nibbana. Therefore, it is the attainment of nibbana that bhavana ultimately aims at. There is a saying
in Pali-'danato bhogava' - 'generosity leads to wealth', 'silato sukhita' - 'morality leads to happiness'
and 'bhavanaya nibbuta' or 'mental development leads to peace'. It is only through bhavana that one
attains the peace of nibbana, which is absolute extinction of dukkha.
What then is dukkha? In the very first discourse, Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta, the Buddha gives
an enumeration of dukkha; birth, old age, illness, death, separation from whom or what one loves,
association with whom or what one does not love, and not getting what one desires. 'In short', adds
the Buddha, 'the five upadanakkhandha (aggregates of clinging) are dukkha'. The five
upadanakkhandha, the Visuddhimagga explains, are 'the five groups of existence which form the
objects of clinging'. The more common name for these five groups of clinging is simply pancakkhandha
(five aggregates), which boil down to rupa (matter) and nama (mind). While rupa is but one, nama
comprises four, namely, vedana (sensation), sanna (perception), sankhara (mental reactions) and
vinnana (consciousness). All these five aggregates, one material and four mental, make up the
individual, but it is wrong to cling to them. In other words, it is a blunder to grasp them, for such
grasping or clinging amounts to identification of them with atta (self). We call this identification
sakkayaditthi, which literally means 'belief in the existing individual, which is a combination of mind
and matter'. For instance, I believe my khandha constitute my 'self' and you believe your khandha are

your 'self'. In this way, both you and I have the notion of 'I'. This is nothing less then egotism-'I am',
'my own', or 'me and me alone'.
This wrong identification and belief is due to avijja (ignorance) which deludes man and prevents him
from seeing the true nature of things, particularly the three characteristics of all conditioned things,
namely anicca (impermanence), dukkha and anatta (substancelessness).
Thus, avijja is the origin of upadana, which is the developed form of tanha (craving). It is this tanha
that gives rise in its turn to every fresh rebirth. For instance, when a man covets something belonging
to another person, he tries to get it by some unlawful means which may be theft or even robbery.
Such an act is akusala-kamma (evil deed). On the other hand, he gives alms hoping to enjoy wealth in
the next existence. Such an act, though it may be labelled kusala-kamma (good deed), is also led by
tanha. He is then bound to be reborn in another existence to enjoy or to suffer in accordance with his
kamma (deeds). Even if he knows enjoyment only in that existence, he cannot escape dukkha, he
remains subject to old age, illness, death and other suffering. Never does one's enjoyment last
forever, because nothing in the world is permanent; everything is indeed transitory and certain to
change. It is the same old story, each time his rebirth takes place he encounters all kinds of dukkha
and struggles with them. So one's samsara (cycle of births) goes on and on without any prospect of
coming to an end. Samsara in a way resembles an enormous whirlpool in an ocean in which
innumerable beings, including divine, go round and round, sometimes submerging and at other times
surfacing, but never finding any way out.
This is where bhavana comes in for those who care to break through the concealment of the true
nature of things by avijja, to eradicate the creation of existence by tanha, to free oneself from
samsara with its dukkha by attaining the blissful nibbana. They are required to have a correct
comprehension of themselves and to acquire knowledge about the basic features of the five
aggregates through bhavana.
Now, a word or two about bhavana as found in Buddhist literature. Bhavana is of two kinds-samatha
(tranquillity) and Vipassana (insight). By practising the former, one can attain certain jhana (mental
absorptions) and abhinna (higher knowledge). But that does not mean one finds the way out from
samsara. On passing away without decrease in his attainment of jhana, he is reborn in a Brahma
world corresponding to the jhana he had previously attained; there he lives long, for aeons, until the
life-span of that abode comes to an end. At the end of it, he is reborn in the human or celestial world.
And like other beings, he meets with the same dukkha of old age, illness, death and so on. If
something goes wrong with him in the Brahma abode, he may even suffer in one of the four apaya
(woeful states). Therefore, samatha-bhavana alone is not reliable for liberation from samsara. It is the
latter bhavana, Vipassana, that ensures a way out of samsara and attainment of the peaceful state of
There are two kinds of Vipassana-bhavana-samathayanika (Vipassana through the course of samatha)
and Vipassana-yanika (Vipassana through the course of Vipassana itself). The former is the more
common practice for the meditator.
The meditator who follows the samatha-yanika practises samatha-bhavana first, the number of its
subjects being forty; which are 10 kasina (devices), 10 asubha (unpleasantness), 10 anussati
(recollections), 4 brahmavihara (modes of noble living), 4 arupa (formless realms), 1 ahare patikula
sanna (perception of the loathsomeness of food) and 1 catudhatuvavatthana (analysis of the four
The subject most popular with the meditator for samatha is Anapana (respiration), one of the ten
anussati. The word anapana is synonymous with assasati and passasati, and is interpreted in two
ways, with the difference being in the order of respiration. The commentaries on the Suttanta take it
to be 'breathing in' and 'breathing out', but the commentaries on the Vinaya say it is 'breathing out'
and 'breathing in'. The first order is to be preferred, for the second is connected with the birth of a
child, but not with meditation. A newly born baby, it is said, breathes out as soon as it comes out of
the mother's womb. For the meditator, however, meditation begins with 'in-breath'. In fact, there are

sub-commentaries that support the interpretation of the suttas at least for meditation purposes. But it
should be noted that mere 'in-breath' and 'out-breath' are not meditation, which essentially calls for
mindfulness-the meditator must be mindful what he is doing when he breathes in or breathes out.
Therefore, the complete name of this meditation subject is Anapanasati (mindfulness in breathing in
and breathing out, mindfulness of respiration).
The meditator who wishes to practise Anapanasati should keep at least the five precepts as morality.
This is the first step to samadhi (concentration of mind), which Anapana meditation cultivates. He
should choose a quiet place. There he sits cross-legged or adopts a form of sitting in which he may be
able to sit for a long time. Having sat, he keeps his upper part of the body straight and his mind at the
tip of the nose just above the upper lip. Then as he breathes in and out he finds the air coming in and
going out touching the tip of the nostrils. With his mind remaining at this very spot, which is being
touched by the air, he is aware that the air is coming in and going out. He must observe this without
any interruption whatsoever until he develops samadhi.
The next step to be developed is panna (wisdom). As sila is indispensable to samadhi, so is samadhi
indispensable to panna. Without concentration of mind one cannot see things as they really are,
having the three characteristics mentioned above. The first characteristic, anicca, reminds us of the
saying of the ancient Greek philosophers: 'One cannot jump into the same river twice.' Everything is
transitory and changing. Nothing is enduring and everlasting. So one finds life miserable. The stronger
the attachment, the greater the misery. This is the second characteristic, dukkha. Then comes the
third characteristic, anatta. Since there is no entity that really belongs to oneself, one holds no sway
over things. One cannot make them remain unchanged nor can one control them. For instance, when
we become old, owing to the law of impermanence, we cannot become young again, we cannot
control the ageing process. That is why anatta is sometimes taken to be uncontrollability.
Seeing things as they really are, or in their three true characteristics is, indeed, panna. In this case, it
is not lokiya (mundane), but lokuttara (supra-mundane) or vipassana panna. Things that are
happening in one's own body can be discerned only with samadhi. The stronger the samadhi, the
easier it is to feel these subtle things in the body, things that are known as vedana (sensation). This
vedana is important to the meditator in his progress on the path leading to vipassana panna, which
must be attained not through sutta (learning), nor even through citta (thinking) but only through
bhavana. It must be bhavana-maya panna.
Regarding the importance of vedana, it lies first in the fact that it can be experienced easily. Of the
five khandha (aggregates), rupa (matter) is highly tangible and cognizable, for it can be seen, touched
or felt even by an infant. It is from rupa that vedana in its turn gives rise to sanna (perception). Then
comes sankhara (mental reaction) in accordance with what one perceives. If the sensation is pleasant,
one loves it and if it is unpleasant, one hates it. Vinnana (consciousness), though considered to be
chief of all mental phenomena, has no chance to get into this series of phenomena thus far. Hence, its
place at the end of enumeration of the five aggregates. In cognizability, vedana is therefore of
greatest power, next only to rupa in the five khandha or highest among the four mental khanda.
Secondly, vedana covers a large variety of sensations. It is true that basically there are only three
kinds as far as the body is concerned, namely, sukha vedana (pleasant sensation), dukkha vedana
(unpleasant sensation) and upekkha vedana (neutral sensation). But dukkha vedana alone consists of
a large number of unpleasant sensations such as itching, aching, cramping, pain, prickling, stinging,
heat, cold, tiredness, and so on. Regarding the mind, there are on the whole, three kinds of
sensations or rather emotions-somanassa (joy), domanassa (sorrow) and upekkha (balanced mind).
Even joy is not at all ultimate because it does not always remain so; for it is subject to change. And
when it changes, it disappears and the opposite emotion, sorrow, sets in. Therefore, what you think is
happiness, is domanassa after all. Therefore, if vedana is to be reckoned, it is definitely domanassa.
Thirdly, vedana can certainly be connected with three of the four mahabhuta (elements), which are
collectively known as rupa. These three are pathavi (earth element), tejo (fire element) and vayo (air
element). Apo (water element) is too subtle to touch, or is so subtle that one finds difficulty in feeling
it. Now, to illustrate the connection between vedana and the three bhuta, when you have a cramp,

which is the tightening of the muscles, it is pathavi; when you feel temperature of the body it is tejo;
when you suffer from pain in the stomach, it may be something to do with vayo, for when the air in
your stomach is stuck and finds no vent to get out, you have that experience of unpleasant feeling
called pain. The connection of vedana with these mahabhuta makes it all the more manifest and helps
one realize its true nature.
Finally, vedana, like other things or phenomena, is subject to anicca. It arises just to pass away. It is
the law of udaya (arising) and vaya (vanishing). He who discerns this law through vedana, discerns
other things as well in their true perspective. All this is nothing but dukkha. Then he gets disgusted
with all this and becomes diligent and works out his own deliverance, which is the final liberation from
samsara dukkha (miseries of the cycle of births).
There may be other aspects of the importance of the role that vedana plays in meditation. All I have
said is what and how I understand this practical field of Buddhism in my own limited way. As I am a
novice and newcomer to this field, my understanding is bound to be imperfect and incorrect. Maybe,
at best, I have been playing an intellectual game. I, therefore, invite criticisms and corrections from
old established kammatthanacariya (meditation masters), who have most dutifully and ably carried on
with the task of patipatti (practice). A word or two of their comments, even if unfavourable, will be a
great blessing to me.
Dukkha Conducive to Absolute Sukha
Dhammacariya U Htay Hlaing
The contemplated area is a narrow triangular place above the tip of the upper lip near the two nostrils.
'The establishment of concentration by means of noting breath-in and breath-out, and the noting of
feeling based on the breath-in and breath-out on that area', is the main principle of this technique;
this fact is already known by all you Dhamma friends.

Foundation of the Method of Contemplation

In order to gain concentration easily and to prevent the mind from being discursive, the contemplated
area is narrowly demarcated; it is not easy to concentrate the fixed object if the area is wide. The task
of samatha is likely to be the same as the circle of the concentrated area (kasina mandala). A heron,
instead of searching for fish on a wide area of farmland, should wait at a water outlet and catch with
ease whatever it wants.
In order to enter into the realm of wisdom quickly, from among the objects of contemplation and
different kinds of natural phenomena, feeling (vedana) is solely chosen to be developed.
Though the prescribed area is narrow, when the power of concentration becomes stronger, material
and mental changes within the whole body can be automatically noted and controlled. Likewise,
though this sole feeling is prescribed as an object of contemplation, when the power of concentration
becomes stronger, the natural phenomena of the remaining mental and material qualities can also be
noted according to the circumstances.
It is necessary to know how important and predominant this method is. You will find it more profound
and salient if you look at it from the view-point of canonical literature.

Start from the Easiest Point

The task of meditation is to watch and contemplate the salient characteristics of this human body
composed of materiality and mentality, the most salient natural phenomena among absolute existing
things. It is just like starting to learn from the easiest point when you are learning something as a
beginner. Nevertheless, without knowing the primary alphabet like A, B, C, or numbers like 1, 2, 3,
you cannot proceed with your learning.
Of the material and mental phenomena in this body, materiality is easier to see. Of the material

phenomena, the element of motion is the most prominent. It has obviously been existing throughout
life from birth until death.
When you can concentrate on one of the material characteristics and keep it under control, you can
also come to realize the remaining ones. Furthermore, the mental characteristics automatically appear
in the realm of the meditators mind. It is stated in the Visuddhimagga that of the mental qualities,
contact (phassa), feeling (vedana) and consciousness (vinnana) are more prominent than others.1
The most prominent of mental phenomena is the vedana that you are contemplating at this moment.
In the Sakkapanha Sutta, the Buddha preached this very meditation on vedana to Sakka, the King of
There are three kinds of vedana-sukha vedana (pleasant feeling), dukkha vedana (unpleasant feeling)
and upekkha vedana (the feeling of equanimity). Of these three kinds of vedana, the unpleasant
feeling is the most prominent. In reality, the Buddha propounded vedana as two or three kinds, or up
to one hundred and eight kinds.2 But it is just stated as much as synonyms. To be exact, every feeling
(vedana) is dukkha, mere suffering. According to the decrease in temperature, it is said as 'being
cold'. Therefore, the young Vajira Theri said, 'Arising is dukkha; passing away is dukkha; there is
nothing but dukkha'.3
In this technique, the material quality-the breath-in and breath-out for concentration, and the mental
quality feeling for wisdom-are chosen to be practised. You all know how pre-eminent and beneficial
this technique is. There may be different kinds of meditation techniques but in marching to the
ultimate goal, the practice of contemplation on vedana is the most effective method. The natural
phenomena of vedana is not only prominent, but it also permeates into all material and mental
qualities, just like the flowing of streams and rivers into the ocean.4

Until Death
There were so many noble ones who achieved the ultimate goal, not only in the life-time of the
Buddha but also later, mainly by using this technique of meditation (vedana contemplation). The
notable references, along with their names and actual evidence, are shown in the Mahasatipatthana
Sutta Commentaries.
For instance, there was a Maha Thera named Kutumbikaputta Tissa in Savatthi. The Maha Thera was
attacked by robbers in a deep forest. While he was held there, he kept practising deep meditation
after he himself had broken his thigh with a heavy stone. He became an Arahant that same night.
Similarly, there were so many noble ones who attained the final bliss while being eaten by tigers,
being pierced in the chest by a spear, being pierced by a stake, suffering from colic, etc.5
Two Methods of Contemplating Vedana
For advanced meditators, while having severe pain or disease, the following two methods concerning
vedana can be used(1) (Vedananupassana Satipatthana-a method of contemplating the arising of vedana, in order to
realize it fully. It is also called vedanapariggaha kammatthana-seizing the feeling while meditating. It
is the method which was practised by Queen Samavati and her attendants while being burnt in flames
in Kosambi city.6
(2) (Vedanavikkhambhana-the method of turning away from feeling (vedanam vikkhambhetva), the
method of neglecting or not caring for vedana (vedanam abboharikam katva). It may be contemplated
on any object which has been regularly and skilfully practised by a meditator, not caring for feeling
arising at the present moment.7

Every Meditator's Personal Experience

It is common for meditators (while meditating) to experience strong pain and unbearable aches, which
have not been noticed before. When one continues, they gradually subside. Actually these painful
sensations exist as natural phenomena in the body. But the stronger, more fascinating objects
overwhelm these painful feelings so they are latent at that moment. It is not a kind of disease to be
afraid of. It can only be seen through powerful concentration.
For example, in remote areas or villages the strange diseases which have not been known before
appear only when physicians come there to give medical check-ups. They do not, indeed, arise due to
the medical check-up, or medicines prescribed by the physicians. Actually, they have been there all
along. But only through powerful microscopes and medical instruments can germs and unknown
diseases affecting them be investigated. Then practical ways can be used to cure them.
When different kinds of pains are arising, they should be noted and contemplated on. If done so twice
or three times, they may disappear at once, but, if the painful feeling is more severe, the effort should
be more arduous. While noting them more and more deeply, it will wondrously disappear as if
something was taken away. But some may not disappear; the velocity of noting should, therefore, be
accelerated with great tolerance. If this cannot be done, then the second method, that of neglecting or
not caring for vedana, should be used.
Sometimes, due to fear or intolerance, it is put aside to be noted and may automatically disappear. If
a meditator cannot at once overcome it, he may frequently confront it in further attempts in the
Even those who suffer from serious diseases, which cannot be cured with the latest medicines, may
have astonishing recovery due to contemplation. There are many such examples. Therefore
Satipatthana is included in the bojjhanga bhavana. This kind of release from disease is not our main
goal, nor is it an important outcome, but it is just a by-product.8

Rewards in the Wake of Disease

Concerning the contemplation of vedana, I would like to tell about an interesting event.
As stated earlier, if the painful feeling is confronted with zealous endeavour, without surrender, it will
finally disappear however severe. There are many more examples. No sooner had vedana
disappeared, than Arahatship was attained. Such a noble person is called vedana sammasati.
In a similar way, there are many more kinds of Arahanta such asRogasammasati (the noble arahanta recovering from disease and attaining Arahantship
Jivitasammasati (the noble arahanta attaining Arahatship and passing away at the same moment);
Iriyapathasammasati (the noble arahanta having attained Arahatship at one sitting with firm
resolution-I will not change my cross-legged posture so long as I do not attain Arahatship).9
There is no need to be afraid of any disease or any painful sensation; there still exist other good
rewards from them. If the disease becomes more serious and the painful sensation more bitter, please
increase the speed of your effort in meditation and regard it as a warning. Do not give up your effort.
Maha Thera Uttiya in the lifetime of Buddha put strenuous effort in his meditation with this view and
finally attained Arhatship.10

The Way to Abolish the Circle of Dukkha

Let me continue to say how important the method of vedana contemplation is.
By always contemplating every arising and passing away of vedana (pleasant or unpleasant) you can

abolish defilements before they become deeply-rooted. According to the teaching of Dependent
Origination (Paticcasamuppada), at every contact (phassa) between the element of touch and the
element of being touched, or between the guest (outer object) and the host (inner object) there arise
vedana (pleasant and unpleasant).
Vedana-paccaya tanha-depending on feeling there arises craving with pleasure; due to craving with
pleasure, the feeling of suffering (dukkha vedana) with unpleasantness arises again. This dukkha
vedana continues to produce another dukkha. In this manner the circle of dukkha keeps on turning
without any pause.11
Abhidhammatthasangaha says-Dukkham tebhumakam vuttam (the mechanical operation of the three
worlds of kama, rupa, and arupa is dukkha). The Buddha propounded in Dhammacakkappavattana
Sutta-Sankhittena pancupadanakkhandha dukkha (in brief, all five kinds of aggregates, the objects of
clinging, are dukkha). In the Paticcasamuppada desana, it is also propounded as evametassa
kevalassa dukkhakkhandhassa (the whole mass of suffering or a collection of dukkha).
In order to stop turning the wheel of vedana and not to let the roots of defilement grow again, you
should be watchful of the arising of vedana. There is nothing other than this way of contemplation. To
stop the mechanical operation of dukkha, the pinions of vedana should be broken into pieces. It is a
sort of changing from vedana paccaya tanha to vedana paccaya panna. In this way, no more
defilements arise and the capacity of tolerance to confront the unavoidable dukkha becomes greater.

Defilements Follow after Vedana

At every arising of feeling, the three main roots of defilements are ready to grow in accordance with
their own nature. If a meditator is not wary of them with stable mindfulness, he cannot be free from
becoming defiled in any way.12
1. tanha (craving) and lobha (greed) follow after sukha vedana (pleasant feeling);
2. dosa (hatred) and domanassa (grief) follow after dukkha vedana (unpleasant feeling);
3. moha (delusion) and avijja (ignorance) follow after upekkha vedana (the feeling of equanimity).
Therefore1. sukha should be contemplated as dukkha;
2. dukkha should be contemplated as a thorn;
3. upekkha should be contemplated as anicca (impermanence).
All these ways are the Buddha's noble instructions.13 To stop the mechanical operation of dukkha and
not let the three main roots of defilements grow again, this fundamental practice should be followed.
If a meditator does not contemplate in this way, lobha and dosa follow. In the Salla Sutta, it is stated
that to extract a thorn which has pierced someone, another thorn has to be used. Thus a person has
to be pierced by two thorns. When dukkha arises, it is followed by dosa and domanassa.14

Sukha is More Dreadful

Dukkha vedana and its followers, dosa and domanassa, can be easily overcome by means of
contemplation. But sukha vedana and its followers, tanha and upadana, cannot be done so easily. The
greater the sukha, the stronger the tanha and upadana. The striking power of tanha and upadana is
greater at the time of breaking sukha than that of its preservation.

Say for instance a person possesses only one hundred rupees and another person has one hundred
thousand rupees.Then depending on their wealth, these two will feel differently if they keep or lose
their wealth. So sukha vedana is more dreadful than dukkha vedana. A person who pretends to be
good-hearted is more dreadful and dangerous than a really bad one.

A Leper in Luxury
In fact, sukha seems to be pleasant at the moment of arising. But as soon as it disappears, then it
changes into dukkha; dukkha replaces sukha immediately. When sukha disappears, dukkha becomes
as great as the extent of the craving and attachment. A hole from a bullet going out of a body is
actually much greater than the hole from the bullet entering into it.15
Indeed the sensual pleasures and luxuries enjoyed because of the five kinds of sense objects are
similar to those enjoyed by a leper who while warming himself at a fire enjoys the tingling and itching
sensation of the leprous abscesses on his body. After scratching them, a lot of pus comes out of them
and he feels comfortable. Thus, he is satisfied doing this and assumes it to be pleasant. Indeed, he is
now in great luxury!16
From the point of view of meditators, all sensual pleasure and possessions seem to be like those
enjoyed by a leper. Gradually, they come to comprehend this thoroughly. The greater their
contemplation, the wider their point of view.

Forty Kinds of Views

The meditator may think to himself-everything is fine and pleasant, everything is permanent and
controllable. But afterwards his illusive concepts of life-subha (elegance), sukha (pleasantness), nicca
(permanence), and atta (ego), which he had taken before as true concepts, become diametrically
changed. The Buddha compares the pleasures of a millionaire to those of a leper. When one really
contemplates on dukkhavedana, more detailed facts can be experienced!
For examplesallato-just like being pierced by thorns and needles;
rogato-just like having severe pain and disease;
gandato-just like puss from boils which spreads throughout the whole body.
All these painful and unpleasant sensations are 'real' dukkha and have to be realized as they really
are. The following are different kinds of viewsTen kinds from the view-point of anicca;
twenty-five kinds from the view-point of dukkha;
five kinds from the view-point of anatta.
They are called 'Forty kinds of views' or 'Forty kinds of Vipassana'. As taught in the
Patisambhidamagga Pali, etc. They are also explained in detail in Visuddhimagga.17

Dhammic-essence in Dhammic Film Show

Some may say, 'You had better stay alone; why are you searching for unpleasant objects with such
painstaking zeal?' Some westerners commonly remark when they begin to know of the Buddha
Dhamma that the world is already so full of social and economical problems, but still, Buddhism
teaches us suffering!
For those who have not experienced its truth, it is probably seen like that. In reality, the task of
meditation is to avoid something which is avoidable, having tested one's power of endurance in
confrontation with suffering throughout the circle of existence. But one is not purposely searching for

There were Vipassana centres in the lifetime of the Buddha. Some asked those who were going there
why they were going there. The Buddha urged them to answer in the following manner-We are going
there to fully realize dukkha. It is comprehensible that the understanding of dukkha is practical and
The realising of dukkha through meditation is like that of an onlooker, not that of a real person, who is
practically killed. From the view-point of poetic literature or music, it may be called 'literary
appreciation' or 'musical taste'. The purpose of going to theatrical concerts and film shows and
spending a lot of money and time is to enjoy or appreciate that taste.
The appreciation of Dhammic film shows cannot be compared with that of any other show.
Sabbarasam dhammaraso jinati (the taste of Dhamma is the best of all tastes)19; Amanusi rati hoti
(the delightfulness that is greater than worldly and sensual pleasures, or the delightfulness that
cannot be attained in both human and celestial abodes).20 There are many meditators who have fully
realized this taste of Dhamma in every part of the world.
Therefore, trying to understand dukkha is going towards absolute sukha. Realising a certain kind of
dukkha is enjoying a sort of pleasure which cannot be attained in human and celestial abodes.
Understand the fact that if a person is faced with a great deal of dukkha, he is really going to possess
a great amount of sukha. But an excuse may arise-It is not strange, everybody understands dukkha.
In fact, most people do not know when dukkha arises; the dukkha they know is the 'real' dukkha that
will produce suffering.
Avoid Mental Pain by having Bodily Pain
How a meditator should look upon vedana or disease.
In the lifetime of Buddha there lived a couple who were millionaires, Nakulapita and his wife, in the
town of Samsumaragiri, Bagga State (now called Cunar Village, Mirjapur District). As they had been
Buddha's parents for five hundred lives, they loved the Buddha deeply like their own son. According to
the Pitaka Canon, they loved each other so deeply and were so devoted to each other that they were
recorded as a mutual love affair. When the husband Nakula grew old and became an invalid, he was
unable to go and see the Buddha as he had regularly done in his previous days. He told the Buddha
how sad he was for not being able to go to see him.
At that time, the Buddha admonished and consoled him'Dayaka! This body is always overwhelmed by diseases; it is just like an easily breakable egg. As it is
covered with a thin layer of skin, it is always subject to outward dangers. Dayaka! It is nothing but
foolishness when a person says about his body, "I am really healthy."
Dayaka, you have to train yourself like this-'Though my body has pain, I will leave my mind unhurt.'
It may be meant that bodily sensation should not be changed into mental attitude, 'I feel painful; this
is "I" who feels pain.' To stop painful sensation, a meditator should note it by means of realisation.21
It means the body may have painful sensation but the mind should not be touched by it.

Upekkha Vedana and the Method of Migapadavalanjana

We would like to talk a little about upekkha vedana, as it should not be left out.
Upekkha is the nature of equanimity-standing on the middle line without inclining sideways towards
sukha and dukkha. It is also called adukkhamasukha vedana-feeling not unpleasant, nor pleasant,
maintaining equilibrium. In the Commentaries of Sakkapanha Sutta and Mahasatipatthana Sutta, it is
statedUpekkha is very difficult to understand like something to be found in the dark. Only by way of
Migapadavalanjana, can it be understood. Just as a hunter who sees the footprints of a deer on both
sides of a stone slab can remark that a deer may pass through it, so also a meditator, while

contemplating on dukkha vedana can realize an instant of exemption, a certain interval of time
between the gradual fading away of an unpleasant feeling and the coming into existence of a pleasant
feeling. It is upekkha (the nature of equanimity) which exists in the instant of exemption of sukha and
dukkha. This type of understanding is called Migapadavalanjana, a method of tracing the foot-prints of
a deer.22

A Vipassana Milestone, Devoid of Love and Hatred

However, most regular meditators who diligently make effort with firm confidence and mindfulness,
using systematic ways and means, experience the specific nature of upekkha within two or three
months. These instances are called the stage of sankharupekkhanana.23 If the final goal is ten miles
away, the milestone of sankharupekkhanana may be over eight miles.
The meditator who has passed that milestone might know about this mundane world very well. He can
also imagine the supramundane nature. His bodily and mental capacities become active and he is
satisfied with peaceful living. There is no need to put deliberate effort into his meditation. He is able to
realize the true nature of things exactly and easily.
He is especially void of worries, fear, love, hatred, which are extremes of sensation. He has little time
to think of his livelihood. Nor are the sensual pleasures of the world for him. He lives in a state of
peaceful happiness which he has never enjoyed before, as he does not entertain any sort of pleasant
sensation like sukha. It may be explained as the point of time which cannot be motivated by any
vicissitudes of life.
In common language, it is a different sort of sukha.24

Atta from Different View Points

Just as he is very peaceful, so also his knowledge of upekkha, knowing the equilibrium of sensation,
becomes deeper and deeper. His knowledge of atta becomes clearer and clearer. The understanding of
himself, his family, his environment and the world, which he has accepted for the whole life, becomes
totally different from before; he becomes enlightened to what he newly understands to be true.
In Anenjasappaya Sutta of Uparipannasa Pali and Mahaniddesa Pali, the different viewpoints of atta
(koti), the different manners of atta, the comprehensive analysis and being enlightened in the sphere
of mind are stated. With reference to them, the explanatory notes concerning the upekkha panna (the
view of equilibrium), are also mentioned in Visuddhimagga. Therefore, we do not discuss them here. It
is not easy to understand these invaluable literary explanations without practising personally.
It is very encouraging that the law of nature is such, that those who practise and experience for
themselves, though they are ignorant of the invaluable Pali Canon, come to know equally as well as
those who study it.

Power of Resistance and Supramundane Phenomena

It is common that when a meditator succeeds fairly well in this task of Vipassana, his knowledge and
opinions are not the same as before. A corrective change is taking place. His behavioural actions and
the power of resistance become more developed.
He can sit for meditation at one sitting for two or three days successively; without sleeping, he is able
to meditate for seven or eight days.
There is a common medical instruction-A person should sleep at least for about eight hours a day for
good health. It may be common for those who are always in a worried state. In the lifetime of
Buddha, there were many meditators who remained awakened by means of enjoying dhammic flavour.
They could stay awake for ten years, fifteen years, or twenty years. Likewise, there are still those

today who can stay awake without sleeping. No disease arises in them and even the severe diseases
which have already arisen in them are cured, and their life-span becomes longer, too. It may be said
to be the supernormal nature of the world.26

The Difference between Theoretical Conception and Practical Experience

In conclusion, we would like to discuss how theoretical conception is totally different from practical
As long as a meditator improves his contemplation, his knowledge is always changing. The conceptssukha and dukkha-become entirely different from those of his previous days.
Just like fish who do not know the water they live in and birds who do not know the sky they live in,
so also human beings do not know the world they live in; indeed they do not try to know the world!
The things recognised as pleasant (sukha) by the worldlings (puthujjanas) become unpleasant
(dukkha) in the view of the noble ones (ariya puggala), and vice-versa.27
Many May Deny, But...
Even in Buddha's time, some people denied and objected to the facts of Buddha's teachings and
argued with the Buddha. In those days, the Buddha explained like thisO Bhikkhus! I, do not altercate with the human world. The world makes argument with me. The one
who only believes in or talks about the law of nature need not argue with anyone in this world.28

The commentator gives his personal account in the following mannerIt is my responsibility to teach the task of Vipassana, but the practical effort is up to all of you; what
can I do for those foolish ones, even though they have been taught!
For lack of knowledge and mere ignorance, worldlings may deny what the Buddha taught. But so far,
no one has been able to stir or turn upside down the Teaching. Therefore, this unique Teaching has
gained true achievements and victory for 2,500 years!
There are different kinds of basic techniques of meditation taught by the Buddha. The beginners may
debate upon the ways of practice with one another but when they all enter into the realm of ariya, the
main goal, they openly admit-This is the only way, the unique technique which we all (unitedly) agree
with; we have no argument about it at all.29

Ways of Living, Having Different Outlooks

Those who have different outlooks-mundane (normal) or supramundane (supernormal)-are very
tolerant of everything in this world and they know well how to befriend the world and how to live in
peace and harmony. They can also lead the whole world to the realm of unity, fraternity and peace.
This is, indeed, the unique Art of Living which cannot be really evaluated.

May all beings be happy and peaceful!

The following reference books and quotations are extracted from the Sixth Buddhist Council Myanmar
Alphabet Editions of the Pali Canons, Commentaries published in the Buddha Sasana Council Press,
Kabha-Aye, followed by the reference numbers to the VRI edition in brackets. According to the Nikayas
and Volumes, the numbers 1, 2, 3 etc., are given for detailed study.
1. Yatha yatha hi'ssa rupam suvikkhalitam hoti nijjatam, suparisuddham, tatha tatha tadarammana

arupadhamma sayame'va pakata honti. Visuddhimagga, 2.225 [VRI 2.669]

Evam suvisuddharupapariggahassa panassa arupadhamma tihi akarehi upatthahanti phassavasena va
vedanavasena va vinnanavasena va. Visuddhimagga 2.226, 224 [VRI 2.670]
Idha pana bhagava arupakammatthanam kathento vedanasisena kathesi. Sakkapanha-Sutta, DighaNikaya Atthakatha 2.315 [VRI 2.359]
2. Pancakanga-Sutta, Samyutta-Nikaya 2.423, [VRI 2.4.267] Atthasata Sutta 429 [VRI 2.4.270]
3. Yam kinci vedayitam, tam dukkhasmim. Rahogata-Sutta, Samyutta-Nikaya 2.417 [VRI 2.4.259]
Dukkham eva hi sambhoti, dukkham titthati veti ca; nannatra dukkha sambhoti, nannam dukkha
virujjhati. Vajira Sutta, Samyutta Nikaya, 1.137
4. Phassasamudaya sabbe dhamma, vedanasamosarana sabbe dhamma, samadhippamukha sabbe
dhamma. Mulaka-Sutta 2, Anguttara-Nikaya 3.153, 341 [VRI 3.8.83]
5. Kulumbika puttatissa, Majjhima-Nikaya-Atthakatha 1.238 [VRI 1.106]; Digha-Nikaya-Atthakatha
2.330 [VRI 2.373] Visuddhimagga 1.46 [VRI 1.20]; Maha Theras bitten by snakes, Majjhima-NikayaAtthakatha 1.82 [VRI 1.24]; Anguttara-Nikaya 2.134 [VRI 2.4.42]
Maha Thera who contemplates his colic until the protrusion of the intestines, Majjhima-NikayaAtthakatha 83; Vibhanga Atthakatha 251; Digha-Nikaya-Atthakatha 2.364; Maha Thera attained
Arahatship while being eaten by a tiger, Majjhima-Nikaya-Atthakatha 1.238; Digha-Nikaya-Atthakatha
2.340; Pitamalla Maha Thera attained Arahantship while being pierced by a spear, Majjhima-NikayaAtthakatha 1.239; Digha-Nikaya-Atthakatha 1.239 etc.
6. Dhammapada-Atthakatha 1.141 [VRI 1.20], Samavati-vatthu
7. Tam vedanam abbhoharikam katva mulakammatthanam sammasanto arahattam eva ganhatiSamyutta-Nikaya-Atthakatha 2.272 [VRI 2.3.79]. Vedana vikkhambhana, Digha-Nikaya-Atthakatha
2.163 [VRI 2.198]; Saratthatika 1.28
8. Bojjhanga-Sutta, Samyutta-Nikaya 3.58, 71 [VRI 3.5.978]; Samyutta-Nikaya-Atthakatha 3.185
[VRI 3.5.368]; Udana, tha 55 [VRI 45]
9. Puggalapannatipali, 116 [VRI 16]; Puggalapannati Atthakatha 3.37 [VRI 16]; Anguttara Nikaya
Atthakatha 3.149 [VRI 2.7.16]; Samyutta Nikaya Atthakatha 1.168 [VRI 1.1.159]; Patisambhida
Atthakatha 1.39 [VRI 1.1.36]
10. Uttiya Thera Gatha, Vimanadi, 226 [VRI Theragathapali 30]
11. Aghajatassa ve nandi, nandijatassa ve agham. The one replete with dukkha feels pleasant; the
one replete with pleasantness attains dukkha. [VRI Samyutta-Nikaya 1.1.99]
12. Sukhaya vedanaya raganusayo (anuseti) pahatabbo. Dukkhaya vedanaya patighanusayo (anuseti)
pahatabbo. Adukkhamasukhaya vedanaya avijjanusayo (anuseti) pahatabbo. Samyutta Nikaya 2.407,
410, Pahana Sutta, Salla Sutta.[VRI 2.4.24,254]
13. Yo sukham dukkhato addakkhi, dukkhamaddakkhi sallato; adukkhamasukham santam, addakkhi
nam aniccato. Sa ve sammaddaso bhikkhu, parijanati vedana. Datthabba- Sutta, Samyutta Nikaya
2.409 [VRI 2.4.253]
14. Salla Sutta, Samyutta Nikaya 2.409, 410 [VRI 2.4.254]
15. Sukha vedana thitisukha viparinamadukkha, Majjhima Nikaya 1.337 [VRI 1.465]
16. Dukkhasamphassesu yeva kamesu sukham iti viparitasannam paccalatthum. Magandiya Sutta,
Majjhima Nikaya 2.175 [VRI 2.214]
17. Visuddhimagga 2.293[VRI 2.763-765]
18. Kimatthiya Sutta, Kimatthiya Brahmacariya Sutta, Samyutta Nikaya 2.350, 449 [VRI 2.4.152,
19. Dhammapada Gatha, 354 [VRI 354]
20. Sunnagaram pavitthassa, santacittassa bhikkhuno; Amanusi rati hoti, samma dhammam
vipassato. Dhammapada, 373 [VRI 373]
21. Tasmatiha te evam sikkhitabbam, aturakayassa me sato cittam anaturam bhavissati ti. Nakulapitu
Sutta, Samyutta Nikaya 2.2 [VRI 2.3.1]; Samyutta Nikaya Atthakatha 2.236 [VRI 2.3.1]
22. Adukkhamasukha pana duddipana, andhakarena viya abhibhuta... nayato ganhantasseva pakata
hoti. Digha Nikaya Atthakatha 2.315 [VRI 2.359]; Majjhima Nikaya Atthakatha 1.282 [VRI 1.113]
23. Sankharupekkhananakatha, Visuddhimagga 2, 291-308 [VRI 2.760-804]
24. Dukkhi sukham patthayati,
Sukhi bhiyyopi icchati;
Upekkha pana santatta,
Sukha'micceva bhasita. Visuddhimagga 2, 203 [VRI 2.644]
25. Sunnamidam attena va, attaniyena va, (dvikotika.

1. Naham kvacani, kassaci, kincianatasmim.,

2. Na ca mama kvacani, kisminci, kincanatatthi, (Catukotika)
Majjhima Nikaya 3.51 [VRI 3.69-70]; Majjhima Nikaya Atthakatha 4.42-3 [VRI 3.70]; Visuddhimagga
2.291[VRI 2.760]
1. There is no concept of 'I' in any place, at any time or in any phenomena. There is no 'I' which
anyone pays attention to. It is apart from 'him'.
2. There is no concept of 'he' in any place, at any time or in any phenomena. There is no 'he' which
anyone pays attention to. It is apart from 'I'.
26. Dhutangadhara, Digha Nikaya Atthakatha 2 [VRI 2.290], Sakkapanha Sutta [VRI 2.344 adayo]
27. Paccanika'midam hoti, sabbalokena passatam. Yam pare sukhato ahu, ta'dariya ahu dukkhato,
Yam pare dukkhato ahu, tadariya sukhato vidu. Pathamaruparama Sutta, Samyutta Nikaya 2.342 [VRI
28. Naham, bhikkhave, lokena vivadami; lokova maya vivadati. Na, bhikkhave, dhammavadi kenaci
lokasmim vivadati. Puppha Sutta, Samyutta Nikaya Atthakatha 2.113-4 [VRI 2.3.94]; Mulapannasa
Atthakatha 1.378 [VRI 1.200]
29. Samagama Sutta, Majjhima Nikaya 3.33 [VRI 3.41]; Majjhima Nikaya Atthakatha 4.21 [VRI 3.41

Importance of Vedana and Sampajanna in the Vipassana(Insight) System of Meditation

Venerable Bhikkhu Lokopalo,
International Friends of Buddhists, Bangalore
It is true that everybody seeks happiness in the world. Hence, all possible efforts are made to destroy
suffering and experience enjoyment and happiness. As real happiness is conditioned by attributes of
mind, training the mind is the path which some people earnestly practise to eradicate suffering. The
suffering associated with old age, disease, etc. is not overcome by material means but can be
overcome by training and developing the mind. In this connection, 2,500 years ago, the Buddha gave
a well-known discourse-the Mahasatipatthana Sutta, in which he declaredThis is the only way, the 'sole way', for the purification of beings, for the overcoming of sorrow and
lamentation, for the destroying of pain and grief, for reaching the right path, for realisation of nibbana,
namely, the four foundations of mindfulness. What are the four foundations of mindfulness?
1. Contemplation of the body (kaya)
2. Contemplation of the feelings (vedana)
3. Contemplation of the mind (citta)
4. Contemplation of the mind objects (dhamma)
This is the way to be followed by those who wish to eradicate impurities of the mind, which are the
cause of their suffering. All vedana, even those perceived mentally, are found only in the framework of
the body. Vedana arise for some reason or another. But we must understand that some kind of vedana
or other is always in every part of the body. One may ask, if that is so, why is it not felt? Our mind is
not in that part of the body. The mind is fully engaged in material enjoyment and pleasure, so the
vedana is not felt. But a Vipassana meditator notices the feelings in all parts of the body as he
observes them with right awareness. As his observation with right awareness goes to the feeling in
each and every part of the body, he notices the vedana (feeling) there. All these sensations should be
observed with equanimity. In this way, the impurities of the mind are gradually eradicated. The
Vipassana meditator will see that all the sensations arising and found in various parts of the body are
changing. The Vipassana meditation re-discovered by Lord Buddha is the purification of mind and
observation of things as they really are. By this kind of observation, the impurities of the mind, which

are the cause of suffering, are eradicated and the mind slowly becomes purified. The sensations,
whether pleasant, unpleasant or neutral, should be observed objectively, by which the impurities
(evils) are washed away, while the good deeds are accumulated. It is just like observing a rogue or
robber sitting near by. When the rogue or robber notices that he is being observed by someone, he
runs away from the site because of his guilty conscience. But when a saint or a noble man finds
himself being observed, he will come closer to the observer and enquire as to why he is being
observed or whether the observer is in need of anything from him. In this way, the impurities (evil
deeds) are eradicated and good deeds accumulated by observation-be they pleasant, unpleasant or
neutral. This is the fruit obtained by a Vipassana meditator, as the Vipassana system of meditation
teaches only observation of the various vedana in various parts of the body.
Until now we have been dealing with vedana which exist in all parts of the body (kaya). When vedana
are observed as they really are, the defilements are eradicated and the mind purified. With further
development, the meditator realizes the three characteristics of impermanence (anicca), suffering
(dukkha) and soullessness (anatta), that is, he understands that everything is transient (anicca),
everything which is transient is painful (dukkha), and everything which is transient and painful is not
self, soulless (anatta). Then the meditator comes to the conclusion that 'this is not mine (netam
mama), this I am not (neso ahamasmi), and this is not my soul (nameso atta)'. Thus he finds out
about himself, about his body and about his soul (or the lack thereof) which is a great achievement for
the meditator.
Now let us pass on to sampajanna. In the Mahasatipatthana Sutta, Lord Buddha declaredKaye kayanupassi viharati atapi sampajano satima...
Vedanasu vedananupassi viharati atapi sampajano satima...
Citte cittanupassi viharati atapi sampajano satima...
Dhammesu dhammanupassi viharati atapi sampajano satima...
Here we find that the Buddha emphasises and gives great importance to sampajanna. From these
words, one can understand that mere sati (mindfulness) without sampajanna will not be of any use
and will not serve any purpose, but sampajanna is essential. Sampajanna must be with sati. Sati
without sampajanna is just like a flower without odour or colour. Hence in each and every foundation
of mindfulness, the Buddha forcibly tells us that sampajanna goes along with sati to make the sati
meaningful and fruitful. Hence sampajanna plays a very vital part in the Vipassana system of
meditation and guides sati in the right way to get good results, that is, to reach samadhi
(concentration) and panna (wisdom).
Sampajano is fourfold1. Satthaka Sampajano (Comprehension of purpose)
2. Sappaya Sampajano (Clear comprehension of suitability)
3. Gocara Sampajano (Clear comprehension of the domain of meditation)
4. Asammoha Sampajano (Clear comprehension of reality of non-delusion)

Satthaka Sampajano
Here the teaching is that before acting, one should always question oneself as to whether the intended
activity is really in accordance with one's purpose, aim or ideal-whether it is truly purposeful in the
practical sense as well as the ideal. Satthaka sampajano has the negative function of counteracting
the aimlessness and wastefulness of an inordinately great part of human activity in deeds, words and
Its positive function is to concentrate the dispersed energy of man, to render it a fit tool for the task of
winning mastery over life. As such, satthaka sampajano aids in the formation of a deep strength in

one's character, powerful enough to gradually co-ordinate all one's activities. It strengthens the mind's
leadership qualities by giving it skilful and determined initiative in cases where the mind used to yield
passively in the past. It takes care of wise selection and limitation in man's activity, which is
necessitated by the confusing multitudes of impressions, interests and demands with which one is
faced in life.

Sappaya Sampajano
This kind of sampajano teaches the 'Art of Practicality', the adaptation to the conditions of time, place
and individual character. It restrains the blind impetuosity and wilfulness of man's wishes or desires,
aims and ideals. It will save many unnecessary failures which man, in his disappointment or
discouragement, often blames on the purpose or the ideals themselves instead of attributing them to
his own wrong procedure. Sappaya sampajano teaches that skilfulness in the choice of a right means
(upaya-kusala). This was a quality which the Buddha possessed in the highest degree, and which he
so admirably applied to the instruction and guidance of man.

Gocara Sampajano
It is explained by the old commentators as not abandoning the subject of meditation during one's
daily routine and can be explained in two waysFirstly, as in many cases, if no link can be established between one's present work and his particular
meditation or if such a connection would seem too vague or artificial to be of real value, then the
subject of meditation would be deliberately put down like goods carried in the hand, but one should
not forget to take it up again on the completion of the work.
Secondly, if one's meditative practice concerns mindfulness, as advocated, there will never be a need
to put aside the subject of meditation, which in fact will include everything. Step by step, the practice
of Right Mindfulness should absorb all activities of body, speech and mind, so that ultimately the
subject of meditation will never be abandoned. The object for the followers of this method is that life
becomes one with the spiritual practice. The gocara (domain) of the practice of Right Mindfulness has
no rigid boundaries. It is a kingdom that constantly grows by absorbing ever new territories of life. It
was in reference to this all-comprehensive domain of the satipatthana method, that once, the Master
(the Buddha) spoke as follows-'Which, O monks, is the monk's domain (gocara), his very own pastoral
place? It is just these Four Foundations of Mindfulness.'

Asammoha Sampajano
This removes the deepest and most obstinate delusion in man, which is his belief in a self, a soul, or
an eternal substance of any description. Asammoha sampajano is the clarity and presence of
knowledge that there is no abiding personality, self, ego, soul, or any such substance. Here the
meditator will be confronted with the strongest inner opposition, because, against this greatest
achievement of human thought (the anatta doctrine of the Buddha), an obstinate resistance will be
offered by the age-old habit of thinking and acting in terms of 'I' and 'mine', as well as by the
instinctive and powerful 'will to live' manifesting itself as self-affirmation. Only by training oneself
again and again to the presently arisen thoughts and feelings as mere impersonal processes, can the
power of deep-rooted egocentric thought habits and egoistic instincts be broken up, reduced and
finally eliminated.
In conclusion, we must know that vedana and sampajano are very vital factors, for which the Buddha
has given much importance in the Satipatthana Sutta while he was explaining the Four Foundations of
Mindfulness. The Four Foundations of Mindfulness are the Vipassana System of Meditation. By
following this method of meditation ardently and diligently, the meditator gets one-pointedness of
mind (samadhi) by which he is able to keep his mind under control and, when further developed, he

attains panna (wisdom). The importance of the Four Foundations of Mindfulness is stressed in the last
discourse of Lord Buddha to Venerable Ananda, which goes as followsBe your own island, be your own refuge! Let the Teaching be your island, let the teaching be your
refuge, do not take any other refuge!
And how, Ananda, does a monk take himself as an island, himself as refuge, without any other refuge?
How is the Teaching his island and refuge and nothing else?
Herein a monk dwells practising body contemplation on the body...
Feeling contemplation on the feeling...
Mind contemplation on the mind...
Mental-object contemplation on the mental-objects, ardent, clearly comprehending and mindful,
having overcome covetousness and grief concerning the world. In that way, Ananda, will a monk be
his own island and refuge, without any other; in that way will he have the Teaching as his island and
refuge, and nothing else.
And all those, Ananda, who either now or after my death, will dwell being their own island, their own
refuge, without any other, having the Teaching as an island and refuge and nothing else-it is they
among my bhikkhus who will reach the utmost height, if they are willing to train themselves.
When explaining the Satipatthana Sutta, the Buddha clearly declared that this is the only way for the
purification of beings, for the destroying of pain and grief, for the overcoming of sorrow and
lamentation, for reaching the right path, for the realisation of nibbana, namely the Four Foundations of
When the Buddha clearly showed the path, for the welfare of the many and for the happiness of many,
people who were in search of a way to destroy pain and grief, sorrow and lamentation, practised
ardently and diligently and gained the fruit-the realisation of nibbana.
As Satipatthana is the Vipassana system of meditation, the meditators, though they may not go to the
extent of the realisation of nibbana, are often cured from diseases, they become active and energetic.
After such meditation, we find that meditators become sympathetic, gentle, honest and sincere. They
also will be blessed with the heart of loving-kindness (metta).
May all follow the path shown by the Noble Master, the Buddha, and enjoy the fruit of the realisation of
nibbana! May all living beings be well and happy!

Vedana and Aniccasanna of Vipassana in the Pali Text

Feeling and Perception of Impermanence in the Canonical Literature
Ashin Arseinna
1. In the Abhidhammattha Vibhavini, the subcommentator says, 'vedayati,
arammananubhavanarasam anubhavati'ti vedana'. It is the feeling of an object that is called vedana.
The feeling that is able to determine whether an object is good or bad, pleasant or unpleasant; neither
good nor bad, neither pleasant nor unpleasant is called vedana.
According to arammananubhavana, there are three kinds of vedana, sukhavedana (pleasant feeling),
dukkhavedana (unpleasant feeling), adukkhamasukhavedana (neither pleasant nor unpleasant
feeling). This is stated in the Dhammasangani of Abhidhammapitaka taught by the Buddha.

There are also six kinds of vedana such as the following1. cakkhusamphassaja vedana (arises when the eye comes in contact with a visible object)
2. sotasamphassaja vedana (arises when the ear comes in contact with an audible object)
3. ghanasamphassaja vedana (arises when the nose comes in contact with an odour)
4. jivhasamphassaja vedana (arises when the tongue comes in contact with a flavour)
5. kayasamphassaja vedana (arises when the physical body comes in contact with a tangible object)
6. manosamphassaja vedana (arises when the mind comes in contact with a mental object)
These six kinds of vedana are referred to in the Majjhima Nikaya text, Chachakkasutta etc., by the
These vedana of three, five, six etc., as stated above are nothing but cetasika (mental concomitants)
accompanying each and every citta (mind or consciousness) that arises from moment to moment. Like
vedana, there are six other cetasikas that arise, accompanying the mind or consciousness. These
seven cetasikas, also known as sabbacittasadharana cetasikas, accompany all kinds of mind or
Of the seven sabbacittasadharana cetasikas, vedana is the second cetasika. There are five khandhasrupakkhandha, vedanakkhandha, sannakkhandha, sankharakkhandha and vinnanakkhandha.
Of these five, vedana is the second khandha.

2. Vedana is the fifth object according to vipassana-bhavana (Insight meditation).

According to Mahasalhayatanika Sutta, Samadhi Sutta, Pathamaja Sutta and many other suttas, there
are five objects of vipassana-bhavana (Insight meditation).
There are five pasadarupa (sensitive corporeality) such as cakkhupasada etc., one of these five being
the first object of Vipassana meditation. There are five objects such as visible objects etc., one of
these five being the second object. There are five consciousnesses such as cakkhuvinnana (eye
consciousness) etc., one of these five consciousnesses being the third object. Phassa (contact)
cetasika is the fourth object. Vedana cetasika is the fifth object.
It will be seen from the above that vedana is the fifth object of the five. It will also be seen that the
role of vedana is important. This will be justified by the various teachings of the Buddha to be
discussed below.

Vedana not as a cause of Tanha but as a cause of Panna

3. First let us see the Paticcasamuppada desana (discourse on the Law of Dependent Origination).
Here we find vedana paccaya tanha (because of vedana there arises tanha).
When tanha arises, upadana, bhava and jati are bound to arise. This cannot be stopped by any power
on earth.
This statement may be explained for others to understand as follows-If this tanha which belongs to
samudayasacca (second Noble Truth) is not eradicated, all the consequences will become dukkhasacca
(first Noble Truth), such as old age, decay, death, sorrow, lamentation, pain, grief, despair.
In other words, dukkha is a real result of samudaya. It is because of craving that dukkha or suffering
arises. This is quite clear. If dukkha arises because of craving, no dukkha arises when there is no
craving. If dukkha is not wanted, there must be no craving. Give up craving.

Therefore, if you do not want dukkha, do not crave. If you do not want craving, you will have no
dukkha. Reject dukkha; to reject dukkha, vedana must be contemplated with vipassana-bhavanaseeing things as they truly are.
The question of how to practise has been answered the Buddha. In the Mahasatipatthana Sutta,
According to that answer, (desana), if a good sensation arises, we must know that it is a good
sensation that arises. If a bad sensation arises, we must know that it is a bad sensation. If a neither
good sensation nor bad sensation arises, we must know that it is a neither good sensation nor bad
If good sensual sensation arises, we must know that it is good sensual sensation. If good spiritual
sensation arises, we must know that is good spiritual sensation. If bad sensual sensation arises, we
must know that it is bad sensual sensation. If bad spiritual sensation arises, we must know that it is
bad spiritual sensation. If neither good nor bad sensual sensation arises, we must know that it is
neither good nor bad sensual sensation. If neither good nor bad spiritual sensation arises, we must
know that it is neither good nor bad spiritual sensation.
If we try our best and practise in this way, tanha does not arise because of vedana; vedana cannot
become a cause of tanha; dukkha does arise because of samudaya; dukkha does not arise because of
tanha; if there is no dukkha, there is only sukha. Vedana will be the cause of panna and not tanha.
What is this panna? It is Vipassana (insight).
Briefly speaking, if we want sukha and not dukkha, we should not have craving. If we do not want to
have craving, vedana which is the outcome of tanha, must be contemplated very carefully to see
things as they truly are. In other words, if we do not contemplate vedana seriously, our samsara will
not cease, and dukkha will not stop. If we contemplate vedana seriously and try our best to
understand it as it really is, there will soon be freedom from samsara and sukha will arise.
Sammatasukha which is the best of all kinds of sukha will follow.

No latent disposition, no Andhaputhujjana

4. We are now going to deal with the importance of vedana. There are many desana on this one single
subject of vedana such as the Sakkapanha Sutta and the Chachakka Sutta. Out of all these, the
various comments on vedana contained in Chachaka Sutta Uparipannasa Pali Text are most
interesting, a brief essence of which will be discussed here.
When sukha vedana arises and craving for it arises, latent disposition of raga arises, and one becomes
an andhaputhujjana (ignorant worldling). If no craving for it arises, latent disposition of raga does not
arise and one becomes a kalyanaputhujjana and an ariyapuggala instead of an andhaputhujjana.
When dukkha vedana arises and causes aversion, the latent disposition of patigha arises, and one
becomes andhaputhujjana. If there is no aversion, the latent disposition of patigha does not arise, and
one becomes a kalyanaputhujjana and an ariyapuggala instead of an andhaputhujjana. When upekkha
vedana (indifferent sensation) arises, and we do not know how it arises and vanishes, how it is
pleasant or unpleasant, how it can be overcome, the latent disposition of avijja arises and one
becomes an andhaputhujjana. If we know how it arises and vanishes etc., the latent disposition of
avijja does not arise and one becomes a kalyanaputhujjana and an ariyapuggala.
In other words, when an andhaputhujjana gets vedana as a raw material, he does not know how to
use it, handle it or exploit it to good advantage. The vedana exploits, overrules and dominates him; he
is always subservient to vedana as a result of which raganusaya, patighanusaya and avijjanusaya arise
in him accompanied by various kinds of dukkha.

When a kalyana or a ariyapuggala gets the same vedana as a raw material, he knows how to use it,
handle it and exploit it to good advantage. He controls vedana raw material, exploits it, overules it,
and dominates it. He is not subservient to vedana. He is already mature; anusaya does not arise; the
stock of dukkha diminishes.
The best way for all stocks of dukkha to diminish is nothing but vedananupassana (insight meditation
on feeling) of the Mahasatipatthana Sutta.

Vedananupassana is done in another way that does not let anusaya arise.
5. It is known as the Gelanna Sutta (page 142 of the second volume of Samyuttanikaya Sixth Synod).
The following is the translation of the central theme of the sutta for easy contemplationWhen sukha vedana arises, we must know that sukha vedana has arisen without a cause it cannot
arise. What is its cause? This physical body is its cause. This body is not permanent; It is the
composition of causal laws of sankhata, merely an effect of its own cause. How could this sukha
vedana, which is impermanent, which is a direct outcome of the physical body, become permanent?
This is the way to contemplate it. Contemplate also that the physical body and sukha vedana are not
permanent. They are always in a state of flux, arising and vanishing. When we contemplate like this,
raganusaya cannot arise.
When dukkha vedana arises, we must know that dukkha vedana has arisen... 'How can dukkha
vedana be permanent?' It must be contemplated again and again to see and know things as they truly
are. Make a practice of contemplating that the physical body and dukkha vedana are not permanent.
They are always in a state of flux arising and vanishing all the time. When we do this, patighanusaya
cannot arise.
When upekkha vedana arises, we must know that upekkha vedana has arisen... 'How can upekkha
vedana be permanent?' It must be contemplated again and again to see and know things as they truly
are. Make a practice of contemplating that the physical body and upekkha vedana are not permanent.
They are always in a state of flux, arising and vanishing all the time. When we do this avijjanusaya
cannot arise.
When sukha vedana, or dukkha vedana or upekkha vedana arises, contemplate on vedana which is
impermanent; do not stop it; contemplate that vedana is not to be welcomed nor relished.
When sukha vedana arises, we must not enjoy it with craving, which is lobha. When dukkha vedana
arises,we must have no aversion, which is dosa. When upekkha vedana arises, we must contemplate
it so that moha does not arise.
When vedana of the physical body entails loss or damage to any limbs of the body or to the body
itself, contemplate that 'I am suffering from vedana that may entail loss or damage to my limbs of
When any vedana arises that may entail loss of life, contemplate that 'I am suffering from vedana that
may entail loss of my life.'
We must contemplate that after death all undesirable vedana in our physical body will disappear once
and for all. For example, a burning flame is extinguished when the wick and oil are exhausted. In the
same way, all kinds of vedana disappear.
According to the above desana, it will be seen that there are ways to happiness when feelings arise so
that anusaya does not lie latent (no latent disposition arises) and that there is no more dukkha but
sukha only. It may be noted that this is a new method of dispelling anusaya in contemplation. It can
also be said that this is a new method of investigation of the law of the element of enlightenment
(dhammavicaya sambojjhanga).

In this sutta, it is most interesting to find that special stress is laid on the importance of the
impermanent nature of vedana.

One thorn only instead of two

6. There are many suttas on the subject of vedana of which Salla Sutta is one (page 409 of the second
volume of Samyutta Nikaya, Sixth Synod). The following is a relevant extract from the suttaIf an andhaputhujjana, with no knowledge of Vipassana is suffering in body and mind, he is like a
person stuck by two thorns. Patighanusaya lies latent in him as he is not free from dukkha vedana.
When he suffers from dukkha vedana, he wants kamasukha because he does not know that
jhanasukha and phalasukha are freedom from dukkha vedana. As he wants kamasukha, raganusaya
arises because of sukha vedana. Because the true nature of vedana is not known as it truly is,
avijjanusaya arises when upekkha vedana is experienced.
As he has no knowledge of vipassana-bhavana (insight meditation), he will have lobha with sukha
vedana, dosa with dukkha vedana, and moha with upekkha vedana. The Buddha therefore teaches
that this kind of person is subject to jati, jara, marana, soka, parideva, dukkha, domanassa, upayasa
A kalyanaputhujjana or an ariyapuggala with good knowledge of vipassana-bhavana, who has dukkha
vedana, will have only physical dukkha, not mental dukkha. He is like a person stuck by only one
thorn. Patighanusaya also will not arise because he has no (cetasika dukkha) mental suffering. When
he has dukkha vedana, he does not want kamasukha because he knows that jhanasukha and
phalasukha are freedom from dukkha vedana and therefore raganusaya does not arise. Avijjanusaya
also does not arise because he has already known the true nature of vedana such as arising and
vanishing, pleasant and unpleasant etc.
As he has a good knowledge of vipassana-bhavana, sukha vedana arises in him without lobha, dukkha
vedana without dosa, and upekkha vedana without moha.
The Buddha teaches therefore that this man is not subject to the law of jati, jara, marana, soka,
parideva, dukkha, domanassa, upayasa etc.
This is the difference between an andhaputhujjana and an ariyapuggala.
From the above teaching of the Buddha, it will be seen that all of us who are always in contact with
one or more of these vedana will do our utmost to understand these vedana with yatha-bhuta-nanadassana (to see things as they truly are).

To prevent a small spark from making a big fire

7. The following is a relevant extract from a desana on the same subject of vedana (paragraph 103 on
page 50 of vol. 2 of Digha Nikaya Sixth Synod) which is most interestingAnanda! Because of feeling, craving arises; because of craving, effort is made to get what he wants;
because of effort made, he gets what he wants; because of what he gets, he thinks to himself, 'This is
a visible object; this is an audible object etc., this is for myself, this is for others; I will eat so much; I
will save so much'. Because of thinking to himself, he begins to crave, more or less. Because of
craving, he believes 'This is I, this is myself'. Because of wrong belief, he accumulates property. As he
accumulates property, he has to keep guard over it. Because of having to keep guard, several kinds of
undesirable disputes, quarrels, fighting, disturbances, etc. take place.
From the above teaching of the Buddha, it will be seen that a small spark makes a big fire. The
dangerous disputes, quarrels leading to armed struggles or other kinds of disturbances begin with

In these circumstances, we must not forget that even a small offence as small as an atom can become
a big danger.
The Buddha warns-anumattesu vajjesu bhaya-dassavi (we must not ignore even a small spark, as it
can cause a big fire).
Therefore, we must not pay less attention to vedana. We must realize that all of these will send us
directly to prisons as well as to the four woeful states.

Samsara is cut off when vedana becomes panna

8. After understanding what has been stated above, we must see to it that vedana does not become
tanha. For this purpose, we must do our best for vedana to become panna. The Buddha has also
taught how vedana is to become panna.
Panna means understanding of things as they truly are. For understanding of things as they truly are,
analytical knowledge is necessary. The Buddha has also fully taught the subject of analytical
According to the above instruction, when vedana arises, we must know through vipassana-nana, that
vedana arises. If the vedana that arises is sukha vedana, we must know that sukha vedana arises
according to the instruction of Vedananupassana as already stated above.
If we do this, understanding of things as they truly are becomes perfect; vedana becomes panna;
vedana does not become tanha.
If vedana does not become tanha, a small spark does not become a big fire; samsara is cut off. The
Buddha has already taught how samsara is to be cut off. It is nothing but the paticcasamuppada
desana only.
When vedana ceases, tanha (craving) ceases; when tanha ceases, upadana (clinging) ceases; when
upadana ceases, kammabhava or upapattibhava (process of volitional action and rebirth process)
ceases; when kammabhava or upapattibhava ceases, jati (rebirth or birth) ceases; when jati ceases,
jara (old age), marana (death), soka (sorrow), parideva (lamentation), dukkha (pain), domanassa
(grief), and upayasa (despair) cease. In this way, dukkha ceases all.
From the above desana (Buddha's teaching) we will be able to realize the followingIf either sukha vedana or dukkha or upekkha vedana arises and we do not know how to handle it with
vipassana-nana, contemplate it or see things as they truly are, then a small spark will make a big fire
and we go round the whirlpool of ceaseless samsara.
If we observe vedana with vipassana-nana, a small spark will not make a big fire and we stop going
round the whirlpool of ceaseless samsara.

Importance of Aniccasanna
9. We are now going to discuss aniccasanna (perception of impermanence) which is also called amoha
sampajanna (analytical wisdom).
In the matter of vipassana-bhavana, vedana is as important as aniccassanna (perception of
impermanence). This is recognised by the Buddha himself. In this matter, we would like to deal with a
teaching of the Buddha which is already known to almost every Buddhist. This is a stanza contained in
the Dhammapada Pali text.

Sabbe sankhara aniccati, yada pannaya passati;

atha nibbindati dukkhe, esa maggo visuddhiya.
The above passage means that when we come to realize through vipassana-nana that sankhara
dhamma (every conditioned phenomenon) is subject to anicca, we begin to get disgusted with all
kinds of dukkha dhamma. This frustration is the right way to freedom from kilesa (defilement) which is
This stanza contains three instructions-the first is that we come to realize through vipassana-nana
that every sankhara dhamma (conditioned phenomenon) is subject to anicca (impermanence).
'What is sankhara dhamma?' Sankhara dhamma means that everything in the world is sankhara.
Ordinary puthujjana or worldlings do not know nor understand what is asankhata (unconditioned
phenomenon); they know and understand only sankhata dhamma. That is the reason why we can say
that all they know and understand are sankhata dhamma. This conclusion cannot be wrong. First, we
must always remember that not a single dhamma or sankhara is permanent; all are the same.
Secondly, we must study, investigate and analyse very carefully, with our own wisdom, so that sanna
(perception) becomes panna. If we do this frequently, it is certain that we are going to realize in due
course that there is nothing which is permanent; there is no such thing as permanence.When we come
to this stage of self-realisation with our own wisdom, we can be sure that our progress is quite
It can also be said that the stage of suta-maya-nana (knowledge of learning from teachers etc.),
becomes that of bhavana-maya-nana (knowledge of development through meditation) and the sanna
(perception) that comes from outside, becomes vipassana-nana (insight meditation) or sayambhunana
(intuitive knowledge) that comes from inside.
Here we must remember that verbal or mental recitation such as anicca, anicca is not sufficient to
penetrate to the essence of Buddha's teaching. Why? Because we must remember distinctly that all
these are the stages of sanna (perception), vacikamma (verbal action), and pariyatti (learning of
scripture), and that the stages of panna, manokamma (development of mental action) and patipatti
(development of insight knowledge) have not yet been reached.
Passati, as every student of Pali knows, is nothing but contemplation for realisation of vipassana-nana.
It is a matter of practical contemplation for realisation etc., and therefore mere recitation, reading, or
noting etc., are not enough.
Well! If we are asked, 'What is the benefit of our self-realisation of what is impermanence or what is
anicca dhamma?', the answer to this question is given by the Buddha as followsThe meditator will become frustrated with all kinds of dukkha dhamma and his attachment to
sankhara dhamma or samudaya tanha will soon diminish.
This is quite natural and it is in full accord with the law of cause and effect. For we are in love because
we do not know the dukkha which is the outcome of this love. Is it not so? It is quite right. Anicca,
dukkha, anatta etc., are the adinava (weaknesses) of sankhara dhamma.

10. Then we have one more to remember. Atha nibbindati dukkhe which means that. 'all sankhara
dhamma become more frustrating.' This is the second instruction given by the Buddha.
This instruction contains the following meanings-'Ordinary puthujjana (worldlings) are not frustrated
with dukkha; they are attached to it; they are in love with it, clinging to it, which develops samudaya
dhamma. These are not sukha; they are like dogs of hunger and greediness devouring the most
repulsive and disgusting heaps of excrement.'
Well! We get frustrated when we realize that it is anicca. It may be asked, 'What is to become of this
frustration?' The answer to this question is given by the Buddha in the third instruction referred to

above-'When there is frustration, there is purification, and we shall be able to realize nibbana, which is
This third instruction is most meaningful. Instead of disappointment or frustration, there is love or
attachment to develop more of samudaya tanha. The more samudaya tanha is developed, the more
kilesa (defilement) is on the increase. As kilesa is on the increase, nibbana, which is purification of
defilement, cannot be realized.
If we want to realize nibbana there must be disappointment without love or attachment. These are the
Lord Buddha therefore says, 'For development of disappointment without love or attachment or
samudaya tanha, the three characteristics (anicca, dukkha, anatta) of sankhara dhamma must be
Therefore, if we want to understand anicca sanna quite well so that the real nature of sankhara
dhamma is realized in full, the resultant disappointment of dukkha dhamma will soon arise. Then, the
more disappointment is on the increase, the more defiling impurity will decrease and diminish in the
course of time. Finally, the real freedom from defiling impurity, which we call nibbana will be realized.
Therefore, we must always remember, that it is most important for us to have a right view of the real
nature of anicca.

From Anicca to Anatta and Anatta to Nibbana

11. Therefore, we would like to conclude here with the teaching of the Buddha himself. That is about
the great importance of the nature of aniccasanna, which is impermanence. The following is the
desana in question (vide page 120, first vol. of Khuddaka Nikaya of the sixth synod).
'Meghiya! Aniccasanna (perception of impermanence), which is the perfect understanding of the law of
impermanence, must be developed within your own inner-self of concentrated contemplation or
Meghiya! That is quite right. For one who has developed aniccasanna, anatta dhamma (which means
that there is no eternity nor atta) will arise.
One who has developed anatta will be able to dispel the wrong view of atta (or self) and the blissful
state of nibbana will be realized even in this very lifetime.'
May all of us come to realize the blissful state of nibbana in our present lifetime.
The Many By-Paths of Vedana
C. Witanachchi,
Department of Pali and Buddhist Studies,
University of Peradeniya, Sri Lanka
Thus have I heard
Standing prominently like a sentinel by the highway named the Samsaric Circus was the towering Tree
of Sensations. Since it covered a considerable area on the right side of the road where it stood, no one
passing by could avoid walking under its spreading branches and thus coming under its influence. Yet
as it changed its garb from season to season, the influence it exerted on the passers-by, or on those
who rested under it also changed with each season.
In the summer, the weary travellers were exhilarated by the mere sight of its thick dark green foliage
and the touch of its cooling shade on their bodies. The soft breezes rustling through its leaves, and the
chirping of the birds resting among its leaves were music in their ears. The sweet smell and the taste
of the ripe luscious fruits brought satisfaction to their noses and tongues. The overall balmy effect
these had on their bodies and minds rekindled their desire to go in search of even greater resorts of

pleasure. Moreover, the pleasant sensations effected by them sunk deep into their hearts to leave a
tendency for attachment for sense pleasures in its recesses.
As the time passed and the summer gradually faded into the autumn to end up in winter, the tree also
changed its garb. The traveller who comes there, exhausted by the fierce wintry weather, finds no
comforting shelter under its branches. Its branches and twigs, now bereft of all leaves and grey with
frost, are painful to look at. The tree provides no warm shelter from the biting cold winds howling
through its bare branches. There is no sweet smell of flowers. The luscious fruits are all gone. The
tired traveller now has only the foul smell of his own winter clothes and the taste of the drops of the
dew forming under his nose to wet his parched lips. The painful effect of all these on his mind was one
of repugnance which gripped his heart. He started to hate the Tree and wanted to run away from it,
yearning for the pleasurable sensations that were missing.
The winter garb, however, like the summer one, was not everlasting. It also gradually changed and the
Tree now put on its spring clothes. Clad in its light green robes, with tiny buds of flowers popping up
from here and there, the tree stands almost still in the quiet surroundings. The whole atmosphere is
peaceful and soothing to the body and mind, which is overcome with a lazy complacency. Neither too
hot nor too cold, the traveller on the road knows no fatigue and walks by the tree completely ignoring
its spotty shade. He pays no attention to the Tree and therefore is not able to appreciate its calming
effect. The resulting ignorance sinks deep into his mind to leave there a proclivity to ignorance.
Common to all the three seasons was the same attitude of the travellers, whether the Tree attracted
them, repulsed them or was ignored by them, namely their failure to objectively assess the changing
nature of the Tree in each season.
Branching off to the left near the Tree of Sensations were numerous by-paths. Certain intelligent
persons amongst the travellers had from time to time shown some of these to their fellow travellers as
avenues of escape from the highway and the paths to permanent peace. These people were either
inquisitive by nature and, therefore, wanted to find the purpose of their travelling on the highway, or
they were tired from their travelling and wanted to rest or else they were led by compassion for the
other road-weary travellers. Yet unfortunately none of the paths they discovered could lead anyone
out of the Samsaric Circus. They were almost 'parallel' roads to the highway, which led the users back
to the main highway. For all these by-paths branching off to the left merely zigzagged within the
Samsaric Circus and rejoined the highway and never led anyone out of it.
But once, there was a remarkable person in whom were combined all the above three reasons, and
who put all his energy to discover the path out of the Circus. He found through experience that all the
by-paths shown by others, strangely branching to the left at the Tree of Sensations, did not lead him
out of it. He could not see whether there were any by-paths to the right of the Tree because that side
was completely hidden by it. So he decided to go around the Tree instead of going at a tangent to it.
He had to clear a path around the Tree to reach the other side and, as he worked his way around it, he
studied the Tree in all its aspects. His study was scientific and objective. Hence the pleasant
sensations of the summer or the painful sensations of the winter were not allowed to overwhelm him.
By the time he reached the spring weather, he had gained a considerable knowledge of the transitory
nature of the Tree. Thus he was able to withstand the lazy complacency that overcame the travellers
in spring. He kept himself awake to the calming effects of the season and understood its nature as
well. Now he comprehended the Tree of Sensations and to his joy he found open before him the path
he was looking for. There was only one path, straight and clear, which led him out of the Circus of
Samsara to the sunlit summit of the Mount of Deliverance. He turned back and had a clear view of the
whole Samsaric Circus and the beings travelling on it and also the numerous false by-paths zigzagging
within the Circus. Out of compassion for those ignorant road-weary beings he declaredOpen for them are the doors of the Deathless
Let those with ears (to listen) let go their (blind) faith!

Significance of Vedana
The above short story allegorises certain aspects of the working of the important phenomenon of

vedana, 'sensation' or 'feelings', which is a key word in the rich repertoire of Buddhist doctrines. The
importance of this term in the Buddha Dhamma is well illustrated by the fact that it occurs in a
number of well known expositions of the Dhamma. In the Madhupindika Sutta1 the Arahant
Mahakaccayana has placed it in a vital position in the process of sense perception. We know that
vedana is the second of the five aggregates (pancakkhandha) comprising the psycho-physical
personality of a living being. Vedana is also the sixth link in the chain of dependent origination
(paticcasamuppada) which seems to illustrate the process of samsara at work. Some discourses also
show how the three basic vedana, not properly understood, strengthen the latent tendencies
(anusaya) which are important factors in the generation of the forces of kamma resulting in rebirth. It
is through the sensations we experience, that we receive the retributive effects of our kamma.2 Last
but not least is the fact that vedana forms the second base of the Satipatthana meditation called the
Unique Path for the Purification of Beings.3 To cap all these we also note the not so well known
statement 'all mental states have their confluence in vedana.'4
There are several classifications of vedana in the Buddhist texts going up numerically from two to one
hundred and eight.5 Yet the most discussed among these is the classification of vedana into three as
pleasant (sukha), painful (dukkha) and neutral (adukkhamasukha) which can be called the most basic
manifestation of the phenomenon. Hence, we shall be taking only this classification in the discussion
below. The Arahant Sariputta, answering a question put to him by the Arahant Mahakotthita in the
Mahavedalla Sutta,6 explains the word vedana in terms of the verb vedeti 'he feels'. 'The feeling he
feels, friend, therefore, it is called feeling' (vedeti vedeti kho avuso, tasma vedanati vuccati). And
what does he feel, 'he feels happy, he feels pain, he feels what is neither happy nor painful' (sukhampi
vedeti, dukkhampi vedeti adukkhamasukhampi vedeti).

Vedana at work
A close examination of vedana at work in the human life can show us the cause of the importance
given to it in Buddhism. When a conscious person comes in contact with the external world of material
forms, sounds, smells etc. through the five sense faculties, and such mental elements as memory with
the mind, there is an automatic bodily or mental reaction which is expressed through sensations
(vedana). It is through these vedana that one perceives the relevant sense object as good or bad,
pleasant or unpleasant, desirable or undesirable, attractive or repulsive, beautiful or ugly, and so
forth. If there were no sensations produced by sense contact, one would most probably have a
uniform view of all one's sense objects. The role played by sensations in our perceptions is so vital
that the Buddha has declared that even the sense of 'I am' (aham asmi) results from them. Thus he
says that in a situation where sensations are completely absent, one cannot say 'I am.'7
Therefore, in a manner, it is the operation of this phenomenon of vedana that creates for each person
his or her variegated world of likes and dislikes, pleasures and pains. Naturally our perceptions depend
on our sensations.8 If one's sensations resulting from seeing a visual object are pleasant, one's
perception of that object would be recognised as desirable. On the other hand a sound resulting in a
painful sensation would be recognised as undesirable. All our reasoning of that perceived object (yam
sanjanati tam vitakketi) and the resulting conceptualising pivoted on it (yam vitakketi tam papanceti)
will also, therefore, be influenced by the sensations experienced when coming in contact with the
sense object. These conceptualisings would naturally go a long way, as shown by the above statement
from the Mahanidana Sutta9 regarding the concept of 'I', in determining one's thinking, speaking and
acting. Hence, one's life in this world, as also one's future lives after death, will largely be influenced
by them.
The Madhupindika Sutta shows the importance of vedana in the generation of the tangle of concepts in
the human mind. The process of sense perception, as explained in this discourse by the Arahant
Mahakaccayana, can be divided into three sections. In the first, one can observe an impersonal note
showing that the process of sense perception, from the point of the sense faculty coming into contact
with the object of the arising of sensations, is natural and automatic (for example, phassa-paccaya
vedana). From then on, in the second section, we can see the active and deliberate participation of the
individual in the process. So the formula is couched in active speech as, 'what one feels, one cognizes;

what one cognizes, one reasons about; what one reasons about, one proliferates conceptually' (yam
vedeti tam sanjanati, yam sanjanati tam vitakketi yam vitakketi tam papanceti). From here, in the
third section, we observe a flood of conceptualising overwhelming the individual who was all this time
actively engaged in conceptualising. He becomes caught up in the tangle of concepts created by
It is clear that vedana occupies a prominent position in this process of sense perception ending up
with the creation of the tangle of conceptualising. If one could comprehend vedana in its true form
and not allow one's perception to be influenced by it, then perhaps one could control one's process of
thinking and save oneself from getting entrapped in the net of concepts.
The Mahahatthipadopama Sutta10 shows how sense perception leads to the heaping up of the five
aggregates of grasping (panca upadanakkhandha), which includes vedana, forming our personality.
Referring to visual perception, the discourse says, 'But, friend, when the eye that is internal is intact
and external material shapes come within its range and there is the appropriate impact, then there is
the arising of the appropriate section of consciousness. Whatever is material shape (rupa) in what has
thus come to be, is included in the group of grasping after the material shape (rupupadanakkhandhe).
Whatever is feeling in what has thus come to be, is included in the group of grasping after the feeling
(vedanupadanakkhande). He comprehends-"Thus there is, so it is said, the including (sangaho), the
collecting together (sannipato), the coming together (samavayo) of these five groups of grasping."
The discourse repeats the same description of the heaping up of the five aggregates regarding the
other sense faculties as well.
The formula of Dependent Origination looks like an extended version of the process of sense
perception into a future life. The twelve-linked formula, according to the commentators, covers three
lives, the past, present and the future. The interest of this is in the creation of future lives and the
resulting mass of dukkha rather than sense perception itself. Hence it bypasses perception (sanna)
and goes directly to craving (tanha) from the feelings (vedana) resulting from sense contact. Craving
leads, in order, to grasping (upadana), becoming (bhava) and birth (jati).
The Buddha, on being asked to explain what bhava means, says that, if there is no kamma ripening in
each of the three spheres of becoming (bhava), then these three spheres could not exist. The Buddha
goes on to say that kamma is the field in which the seed of consciousness (vinnana) grows taking
craving as the moisture. This leads to rebirth through rebecoming (punabbhavabhinibbatti). Bhava as
kamma is thus significantly connected with vedana. We will see further evidence of this later.

Vedana and the Latent Tendencies (anusaya)

In a number of discourses,11 the Buddha explains how the three basic sensations, not comprehended,
lead to the strengthening of the latent tendencies (anusaya) of lust (raga), repugnance (patigha) and
ignorance (avijja). It is this aspect of vedana that is used in the allegory at the beginning of the paper.
Thus an ordinary person untrained in the Dhamma, when afflicted with a painful physical experience,
allows his mind also to be afflicted by it. As he does not comprehend the experience, the tendency to
repugnance resulting from it becomes latent in his mind. Since he sees no escape from pain except
through sense pleasures a tendency to lust also becomes latent in him. His failure to comprehend the
sensations experienced, causes a tendency to ignorance of neutral feelings to become latent.12
Another source says directly that the failure to comprehend the real nature of a neutral feeling makes
a tendency to ignorance become latent.13 The Madhupindika Sutta also asserts that by not
entertaining, not welcoming and not indulging in the source of the flood of conceptual thinking that
overwhelms a person, one can put an end to all latent tendencies.14
Latent tendencies also play an important role in causing rebirth. 'What one wills, what one designs,
what tendencies one makes to be latent, this is an object for the establishment of the consciousness.
When there is an object, the consciousness is established. When the consciousness established therein
grows, there is rebirth through rebecoming.'15 The discourse goes on to say that even in the absence
of willing (cetana) and designing (pakappana), latent tendencies (anusaya) alone are capable of
playing this role. Therefore, one can understand how sensations that are not properly understood
bring about rebirth.

Vedana and the Experiencing of Kammic Retribution

That one experiences kammic retribution through sensations is quite clearly stated in the
Kukkuravatika Sutta.16 Accordingly, one who performs harmful (sabbabajjham) bodily, verbal and
mental activities is, as a result, reborn in a harmful world and assailed by harmful sensory
impingements. Being assailed by them, one experiences harmful sensations which are definitely
painful (sabbavajjham vedananam vedeti ekantadukkham). 'Thus,' says the Buddha, 'beings are
inheritors of their kamma.' Yet the Buddha has definitely rejected the view that all sensations result
from past kamma, upheld by some of the contemporary religions like Jainism.17 Kamma is only one
among many causes for the arising of sensations.18
We also know that it is not the mere act but the accompanying volition (cetana) that determines the
results of the act (cetana aham bhikkhave kammam vadami). There can be many factors that
condition volition.19 But it is very difficult to think of volition apart from sensations. Already we have
seen from the Madhupindika Sutta how sensations lead to conceptualising. It is not difficult to see the
connection between conceptualising and volition (cetana) and designing (pakappana), and of course
latent tendencies (anusaya).
The suttas themselves do not directly link sensations and the performance of kammic activity. But
there is at least one sutta which seems to suggest such a link. According to this discourse,20 a person
who is cooled within (paccattam parinibbayati), who has realized nibbana, experiences sensations
without involving oneself with them. 'Experiencing sensations which end with the body, one knows
them to be so; experiencing sensations ending with life, one knows them as such. At the dissolution of
the body, at the end of life, all sensations not entertained (anabhinanditani) will itself be cooled. He
knows that only the bodily remains will be left.' This shows that the sensations experienced by an
arahant are not carried across to a new life. They end with the body and life. It follows that the
sensations of ordinary persons are carried across to a new life.
This exposition on the sensations of one who has realized nibbana is quite significantly preceded by
the statement that the consciousness of a person who does meritorious, demeritorious or
imperturbable activities (anenjabhisankhara) is united with the activity-punnupago hoti vinnanam-thus
leading to rebirth. But when ignorance is removed and knowledge arises, there will no longer be any
activity. 'Not constructing, not willing, one does not grasp anything in the world; not grasping, one is
not perturbed; not perturbed, one is cooled (within) by oneself.' It is such a cooled person who is said
not to entertain any sensations one experiences. Then one can surmise that this person did entertain
those sensations while he was yet performing those activities through ignorance. Then the sensations,
experienced while engaged in such activities, could be responsible for the kammic force to be carried
across the chasm of death to produce retribution in a new birth. Probably it is because of this that the
discourse emphasises the fact that the sensations not entertained become cooled. They lose their
vitality for the creation of any retributive activity. Thus one could say that vedana plays an important
role both in experiencing the results of kammic action as well as in the performance of kammically
potent actions.

By-paths of Vedana
What has been discussed so far pertains largely to the main highway of samsara on which the most
impelling force was seen to be the Tree of Sensations. All the by-paths that branch off at the Tree, as
we have seen above, except one solitary case, ran almost parallel to the main highway and led those
back to the Samsaric Circus.
One among these, perhaps the most popular among the travellers, was the path of material pursuit
traced by the Buddha in the Mahanidana Sutta. 'Thus it is, Ananda,' says the Buddha, 'that craving
comes into being because of sensations (vedana), pursuit (pariyesana) because of craving (tanha),
gain (labha) because of pursuit...' and so on in the following order: decision (vinicchaya), desire and
passion (chandaraga), tenacity (ajjhosana), possession (pariggaha), avarice (macchariya), watch and
ward (arakkha), and, because of this, many unwholesome states of things (akusala dhamma) such as

taking to stick and weapon (dandadana, satthadana), strife (kalaha), contradiction (viggaha), retort
(vivada), quarrelling (tuvantuva), slander (pesunna) and lies (musavada). These two paths of craving,
says the Buddha, confluence in vedana. 'Thus, Ananda, these two aspects (of craving) from being dual
become united through sensations (which condition them).'21 The commentator has explained these
two aspects (dve dhamma) as 'the primary craving which forms the basis of the round of births and
deaths (vattamulabhuta-purima-tanha) and the craving manifested in worldly conduct.22 In this bypath of material pursuit, we could observe the path mostly advocated by materialists who have no
place for spiritual values in the life of man. The Buddha, however, calls this the 'ignoble quest'
(anariya-pariyesana) which ultimately leads to birth, decay, disease, death, pain and impurity.23 The
unwholesome states of things resulting from the pursuit of immaterial gains also lead to the same
result, back to the Samsaric Circus.
It is not only the worldly pursuit of material gains that is prompted by sensations. Even religious and
philosophical thinking and practices seem to have the same source of origin. We can understand that
one who is weary of worldly existence owing to innumerable social problems could yearn for a way out
of that miserable existence. Deprived from enjoying sensory pleasures and a comfortable life here in
this world, one wishes to be reborn in a heavenly world to enjoy the pleasures that were missing here.
Various religions try to bring discipline to personal and social life by pointing out the painful
consequences that man has to face in a future life as a result of evil conduct in this world or the
pleasant experiences one could enjoy in the future by conducting oneself according to moral rules in
this life. Only one who has experienced pain and pleasure could formulate such views or could be
made to act in accordance to such doctrines. Naturally, we have to conclude that sensations play an
important role in all these doctrines.
Experiences of deeper levels of consciousness gained through meditation and sometimes, supersensory (abhinna) experiences resulting from deep meditational practises could form the basis of
various philosophical and religious speculations. The Mahakammavibhanga Sutta narrates how some
recluses and brahmins come to wrong conclusions regarding the operation of the law of kamma on
their limited experiences of recalling past lives.24 The Brahmajala Sutta enumerates and discusses
sixty-two such speculative views on the world and its inhabitants based largely on such meditational
experiences but includes a few based on pure logical reasoning.
Each one of these views formed the doctrinal basis of a religious sect in the 6th century B.C. India,
and was presented to the people as a path of deliverance from the hardship of worldly existence or as
an explanation of worldly existence. Referring to each one of them the Buddha says, 'that too is due to
sense-contact.'25 But the importance of this statement lies in the fact that sense-contact gives rise to
sensations. The Samyutta Nikaya26 says that the three sensations are born of contact (phassa),
based on contact, have contact as the source and are dependent on contact. The vital role of
sensations in giving rise to various forms of speculative views is emphatically stated in the discourse,
with regard to the Eternalist views, as follow. 'Of them, brethren, those recluses and brahmins who
are Eternalists, who in four ways maintain that the soul and the world are eternal, that opinion of
theirs is based only on the personal sensations (vedayitam), on the worry and the writhing consequent
thereof. Those venerable recluses and brahmins, who know not, and see not are subject to all kinds of
craving.'27 This view is further strengthened by the ideas expressed in the Mahanidana Sutta28
regarding the manner in which one could look at one's self. According to this discourse, a person
regards himself to be either 'feeling' in the words 'Myself is feeling' or the converse of it as 'Myself is
not feeling, it is not sentient' or else as 'Myself has feelings, it has the property of sentience'. By not
taking to any of these three views, and thereby not grasping at anything in the world, one does not
tremble. Not trembling, he is cooled by himself (paccattanneva parinibbayati). This shows how
speculations about self are based on sensations and how refraining from such speculations leads to
In the Brahmajala Sutta, the Buddha stresses the importance of comprehending the speculative views
in all aspects as well as the full comprehension of the sensations for the realisation of nibbana. 'Now of
these, brethren, the Tathagata knows that these speculations, thus arrived at, thus insisted on, will
have such and such a result, and such and such an effect on the future condition of those who trust in
them. That does he know, and also he knows other things far beyond, and having that knowledge, he
is not puffed up, and thus untarnished, he has in his own heart realized the way of escape from them,

has understood them as they really are, the arising and passing away of sensations, their sweet taste,
their danger, and the escape therefrom, and not grasping after anything, the Tathagata is quite

The Path out of the Samsaric Circus

The Buddha, according to the above passage, knows their result and the effects on the future
conditions (evam gatika bhavissanti evam abhisamparayanti) of those who have taken hold of these
speculative views. It convincingly proves that all these by-paths lead the travellers on them back to
the Samsaric Circus. There is but one path that leads out of the Circus, and as we saw in the allegory,
one has to go round the Tree of Sensations to get on to it.
The Mahanidana Sutta and the Brahmajala Sutta, as shown above, make it quite clear that the
comprehension of the sensations play a leading role in the realisation of deliverance according to the
Buddha's teachings. 'Once the three sensations are comprehended (tisu vedanasu parinnatesu), a
noble disciple has nothing further to do.'30 This comprehension of sensations, and the eradication of
the tendencies that become latent as a consequence of entertaining them, is an essential factor in the
realisation of freedom. 'That he, brethren, not getting rid of the tendency of attachment to a pleasant
feeling, not driving out the tendency of repugnance to a painful feeling, not rooting out the tendency
of ignorance concerning a feeling that is neither painful nor pleasant, not getting rid of ignorance, not
making knowledge arise, should here and now be an end-maker of anguish-this situation does not
exist.'31 The vital importance of comprehending the three sensations is then very well established.
What is the method and the conduct to be followed in gaining complete knowledge of the three
sensations? We have already seen how the contemplation or the observation of arising and passing
away of all sensations themselves is used as a catalyst to comprehend the sensations and their telling
effect on the mind. In the Satipatthana Sutta,32 the contemplation on the sensations is used as one of
the four bases of mindfulness. Here the meditator is instructed to observe the sensations with all their
nuances in one's self without being involved in them personally.
Mindfulness and circumspection (sampajanna) in all one's activities is the mode of behaviour that is
recommended by the Buddha for those who wish to realize nibbana in this life. 'A monk, brethren,
should spend his time (lit. should await his time) with mindfulness and circumspection (sampajanna).
That is my admonition to you' says the Buddha in one discourse. To be mindful here means to practise
the four contemplations on mindfulness, (The translation of the Samyutta Nikaya has here only the
contemplation of the body)33 To be circumspect in this respect is to do all one's activities with
When a pleasant feeling arises in a person who is living in this fashion, he or she knows that it is
conditioned by the body which is impermanent. The pleasant feeling thus conditioned should also be
impermanent. Thus contemplating on the impermanence of the body and the sensations, their waning,
detachment, cessation and giving them up, he abandons the tendency to attachment to the body and
the pleasant feeling.34 In this manner he could observe the true nature of the painful and neutral
sensations as well and thereby abandon the consequential tendency to repugnance and the tendency
to be ignorant as well.
The whole purpose of practising circumspection and mindfulness is to prevent the three sensations,
even the most subtle (panita) and peaceful (santa) neutral feelings from escaping from one's net of
knowledge. For it seems to be the natural order of things for us to be drawn away especially by the
pleasant and painful sensations we experience without our being aware of what has happened.
Probably nature 'has designed' this mechanism to keep us ever on the Samsaric Circus. Thus the
Buddha says35Sight of fair shape bewildering lucid thought
If one but heed the image sweet and dear
The heart inflamed in feeling doth o'erflow,

And clinging stayeth;

Thus in him do grow
Divers emotions rooted in sight,
Greed and aversion, and the heart of him
Doth suffer grievously. Of him we say,
Thus heaping store of pain and suffering.
'Far from nibbana'.
Thus, a person has to be ever vigilant to see that no sensation passes without one being aware of it.
Thus it is said36When a monk, ardent, does not avoid circumspection,
By that, the wise one, comprehends all feelings.
The result would be to free oneself from all intoxicants (asava) in this life itself and pass all reckoning
after birth.
He, having comprehended the feelings,
Free from intoxicants here and now,
Established in the Dhamma, the knower
Passes all reckoning when the body breaks.37
So it is very clear that the comprehension of the three sensations is vital for emancipation from the
bonds of samsara. Fortunately, as we have already seen from the exposition in the Madhupindika
Sutta, it is at this specific point of the arising of the sensations in the process of sense perception, that
one becomes personally involved in its manipulation. If the process of sense perception were
completely automatic and impersonal, control of its ultimate outcome would not be possible. It is
because the automatic process ends with sensations, that a wise person working diligently with
complete awareness and circumspection can take control of one's mind and thereby one's destiny.38
One has to train oneself to achieve this through the cultivation of mindfulness and circumspection
(sato ca sampajano) so that ultimately one can face the challenge of the sensations one experiences
by studying them objectively without allowing them to colour one's perceptions. Once a person is able
to master this, he can live without getting involved personally (visannutto) with experiences of
pleasant, painful, or neutral sensations. In other words one could, in terms of the Buddha's
admonition to Malunkyaputta39 and Bahiya,40 live taking only the seen (ditthamattam) in what is
seen, only the heard (sutamattam) in what is heard, only the felt (mutamattam) in what is felt, and
only the cognized (vinnatamattam) in what is cognized. It is then that one can view the true reality of
the world in its complete nakedness and be free from all bonds of samsara.

Notes: (In translating the Pali texts, I have mostly followed the English translations of the Pali Text
Society. However, in certain cases I have either changed some of the English renderings of Pali terms
used in these translations or given my own translations of the relevant passages. The references in
brackets are from the VRI edition.)
1. Majjhima Nikaya PTS 1.108 [VRI 1.199]
2. Ibid. PTS 1.389 [VRI 2.80-81]
3. Ekayano ayam, bhikkhave, maggo sattanam visuddhiya, Ibid. p. 55f [VRI 1.106]
4. Vedanasamosarana sabbe dhamma, Anguttara Nikaya PTS 339 [VRI 3.8.83]
5. Majjhima Nikaya PTS 1.397f [VRI 2.88]
6. Ibid. 292f [VRI 1.449]
7. Yattha panavuso sabbaso vedayitam natthi api nu kho, tattha Ayamahamasmi? No hetam Bhante.
Digha Nikaya PTS 2.67 [VRI 2.124]
8. Yam vedeti tam sanjanati, Majjhima Nikaya PTS 111f [VRI 1.204]
9. Digha Nikaya PTS 2 [VRI 2.95]
10. Majjhima Nikaya PTS 184f [VRI 1.300]
11. Majjhima Nikaya PTS 3.285; Samyutta Nikaya PTS 4.204 [VRI 2.4.249 Adayo]
12. Suttanipata PTS 208f [VRI 1085 Adayo]
13. Majjhima Nikaya PTS 3.285 [VRI 3.424-425]
14. Ibid. PTS 1.109 [VRI 1.199]
15. Samyutta Nikaya PTS 2.65 [VRI 1.2.38]
16. Majjhima Nikaya PTS 1.389f [VRI 2.78]

17. Ibid. PTS 2. 214 [VRI 3.1 Adayo]

18. Samyutta Nikaya PTS 4.230 [VRI 2.4.270]
19. Anguttara Nikaya PTS 1.249 [VRI 1.3.101]
20. Samyutta Nikaya PTS 2.82f [VRI 1.2.51]
21. Dialogues of the Buddha PTS 2.58f
22. Samudacara-tanha, Digha Nikaya Atthakatha PTS 2.500 [VRI 2.112]
23. Majjhima Nikaya PTS 1. 161f [VRI 1.274]
24. Majjhima Nikaya PTS 3.210 [VRI 3.298]
25. Tadapi phassa-paccaya, Digha Nikaya PTS 1.42 [VRI 1.118 Adayo]
26. Samyutta Nikaya PTS 4. 215 [VRI 2.4.258]
27. Dialogues of the Buddha PTS 1.52
28. Digha Nikaya PTS 2.66 [VRI 2.95 Adayo]
29. Dialogues of the Buddha PTS 1. 44
30. Samyutta Nikaya PTS 2.99 [VRI 1.2.63]
31. Middle Length Sayings PTS 3.334
32. Majjhima Nikaya PTS 1.59 f [VRI 1.113]; Digha Nikaya PTS 2.290 f [VRI 2.373]
33. Kindred Sayings PTS 5.211
34. Samyutta Nikaya PTS 4.211f [VRI 2.4.255]
35. Kindred Sayings 4.43
36. Samyutta Nikaya PTS 4.206 [VRI 2.4.252]
37. Ibid.
38. Bhikkhu cittam vasam vatteti, no ca bhikkhu cittassa vasena vattati. Majjhima Nikaya PTS 1. 214
[VRI 1. 338]
39. Samyutta Nikaya PTS 4. 73 [VRI 2. 4. 95]
40. Udana PTS 1. 10 [VRI 10]

Kamma and Vedananupassana

Lily de Silva
The Anguttaranikaya1 defines kamma as intention (cetana aham, bhikkhave, kammam vadami) as it
is intention that is translated into action through body, speech and mind (cetayitva kammam karoti
kayena vacaya manasa). Sankappa is another word for intention and it is noteworthy that intentions
and thoughts are said to converge in sensations, feelings.2 The commentary3 explains:
Sankappavitakka ti sankappabhuta vitakka-sankappavitakka means thoughts which have become
intentions. In fact all mental phenomena are said to get translated into sensations.4 The commentary5
explains sabbe dhamma as pancakkhanda, the five aggregates, namely the psycho-physical unit that
forms man. Then it comes to mean that the five aggregates converge in sensations. The entire human
personality is throbbing with sensations; without them, man would be a mere vegetable. Hence the
vital importance of sensations.
According to the Nidanasamyutta,6 the entire body is a physical manifestation of ancient kamma. It
says-The body is neither yours nor anybody else's; it is the appearance of former kamma,
compounded, willed and made sensitive (nayam kayo tumhakam na pi annesam, puranam idam
kammam abhisankhatam abhisancetayitam vedaniyam datthabbam). The Salayatanasamyutta7
maintains that the sense faculties are fabricated by ancient kamma (cakkhum puranakammam
abhisankhatam abhisancetayitam vedaniyam datthabbam etc.). We get a body with its particular
strengths, weaknesses and predispositions because it is so fabricated by our past kammic energies
which gave it conception. Similarly the sensitivity and the potentialities of our sense facilities are
determined by our previous kamma. It appears that we get a genetic heritage which is consonant with
our kammic heritage. It is repeatedly said in the Canon8 that beings own their kamma, they are heirs
to their kamma, kamma is their matrix, kamma is their relation, kamma is their refuge, kamma
divides beings into high and low (kammassaka satta kammadayada kammayoni kammabandhu
kammapatisarana. kammam satte vibhajati yadidam, hinappanitatayati). Kamma seems to choose,
out of trillions of possibilities, a particular genetic pattern through which it could best express its

energies. Therefore it is possible to conclude that kammic energy gets transformed into sentient
matter which gives rise to appropriate sensations.
Just as there are ancient (purana) kamma, there are new (nava) kamma as well.9 The new kamma
are the intentional physical, verbal and mental actions that we perform at present, here and now. It is
important to note that kamma does not get destroyed.10 This is because kamma builds up sentient
matter continuously. The process of building sentient matter, started at conception by ancient kamma,
is kept up by new kamma. This, in other words, is the conversion of mental energy into physical
sentient matter.
Kamma gets expiated by giving rise to vipaka.11 Vipaka is but the experience of appropriate pleasant
or painful sensations (so tattha dukkha tippa katuka vedana vedeti etc.). There are different types of
kamma which have to be experienced in different spheres.12 There are kamma which have to be
experienced in a state of woe (nirayavedaniyam), in the animal kingdom (tiracchanayonivedaniyam),
in the peta world (pettivisayavedaniyam), in the human world (manussalokavedaniyam), and in the
celestial world (devalokavedaniyam). But if in the process of experiencing vipaka, that is, resultant
pleasant or painful sensations, one reacts with greed, hatred or delusion, one produces more and
more kamma which gets transformed into sentient matter which in turn generates more and more
resultant sensations. Thus a vicious circle gets established. This is the cyclic process of samsara.
If one wishes to break through this cyclic process, one has to bring about the destruction of kamma
(kammakhaya). This can be done by destroying greed, hatred, and delusion as they are said to be the
origins of kamma.13 According to the Kukkuravatika Sutta,14 there are kamma which are neither
black nor white and which produce results which are neither black nor white. Such kamma is said to
be conducive to the elimination of kamma (Atthi kammam akanham asukkam
akanhamasukkavipakam kammam kammakkhayaya samvattati). These are the kamma which are
neither evil nor meritorious. This type of kamma is explained as the intention (cetana) one has to
eliminate evil, meritorious and mixed kamma which give respective results.
Now the question that arises: how can this intention be translated into effective action? According to
Anguttara Nikaya15, one should observe moral habits (silava hoti patimokkha samvarasamvuto...),
not accumulate new kamma and expel old kamma by experiencing them. This is annihilation of
kamma here and now, immediately verifiable and leading to higher spirituality; this has to be
individually realized by the wise (navam ca kammam na karoti, purananca. Kammam phussa phussa
vyantikaroti. Sanditthika nijjara akalika ehipassika opaneyyika paccattam veditabba vinnuhi ti). The
most important phrase here which has to be clarified is phussa phussa vyantikaroti.
The process of destroying kamma is explained more lucidly in the following verses of the
Dvayatanupassana Sutta16Sukham va yadi va dukkham, adukkhamasukham saha;
ajjhattanca bahiddha ca, yam kinci atthi veditam.
Etam dukkhanti natvana, mosadhammam palokinam;
phussa phussa vayam passam, evam tattha vijanati;
vedananam khaya bhikkhu, nicchato parinibbuto ti.
Whatever sensations one has, pleasant, painful or neutral, internal or external, one should know all
that to be full of suffering, deceitful and disintegrating. Continuously experiencing them, one sees
them pass away. Thus one gets detached with reference to them (tattha). With the destruction of
sensations, a monk becomes hungerless (greedless) and attains the peace of nibbana.
The commentary17 on this verse sheds much light on the practical aspect of the exercise when it
says-phussa phussati udayavyayananena phusitva-phussa phussa means repeatedly experiencing with
the knowledge of the arising and passing away of sensations. Vayam passam ti ante bhangam eva
passanto-vayam passam means seeing the disintegration at the end. Vedananam khaya ti tato param
maggananena kammasampayuttanam vedananam khaya-vedananam khaya means by the destruction
of sensations which are connected with kamma, with the help of path-knowledge thereafter.

When we consider the practical aspect of 'phussa phussa vaya passam' we cannot help but notice that
the phrase refers to Vedananupassana. According to the Satipatthana Sutta,18 one has to be aware of
the various sensations as they arise in the body. One has to observe the arising of the sensations
(samudayadhammanupassi), and their passing away (vayadhammanupassi).
This is what is called being aware of sensations without reacting to them. Generally, we revel in
pleasant sensations as lust underlies pleasant sensations.19 We revolt against painful sensations as
aversion underlies unpleasant sensations (dukkhaya vedanaya patighanusayo anuseti). We are
unaware of neutral sensations as ignorance underlies neutral sensations (adukkhamasukhaya
vedanaya avijjanusayo anuseti). Thus, our normal habit is to react to the various sensations with
greed, hatred and delusion. When we so react, kamma gets built up as discussed above. But if with
vedananupassana we observe the arising and passing away of sensations without reacting to them,
then old kamma gets destroyed, and new kamma does not get accumulated. We saw above that
kamma gets translated into sentient matter which in turn gives rise to appropriate sensations. This is
bhavacakka at work, the wheel of becoming. Vedananupassana is the reverse process, the
dhammacakka set in motion within the framework of the individual. When one sees sensations with
mindfulness (sati) as they come up, they get destroyed without giving rise to kamma. This is what is
meant by phussa phussa vyantikaroti. This is how mindfulness acts as a psychological laser beam to
destroy kamma which do not otherwise get destroyed without giving rise to vipaka, for it is said that
kamma does not get destroyed.20 This is the art of experiencing sensation without being attached.21
A monk who destroys sensations thus attains the peace of nibbana.22
It has to be emphasised that vedananam khaya does not mean the destruction of all sensations.
According to the Vedanasamyutta23 there are eight types of sensations. Four types are due to
disturbances caused by bodily humours such as bile (pitta), phlegm (semha), wind (vata) and a
combination of them (sannipatika). The fifth type is caused by climatic changes (utuparinamaja). The
sixth type is caused by using disagreeable things together (visamapariharaja), such as combinations
of foods which may prove to be poisonous. The seventh type is caused by injuries and attacks from
outside (opakkamika). The eighth type is generated by kamma as retribution (kammavipakajani
vedayitani). Of these eight types, it is only the last named that gets destroyed by vedananupassana.
The other seven types of sensations continue to function.
It does not seem to be required that all kamma should be eradicated completely for the attainment of
arahantship. That there may remain a certain fraction of kamma can be assumed from the canonical
episode of Angulimala.24 Angulimala who committed many a murder is said to have suffered being
accidentally hit by stones and sticks, though they were not aimed at him, even after he became an
arahant. Sometimes he used to come from his alms round with head injuries and torn robes. The
Buddha admonished him to bear with this suffering as this is the present experience of evil done for
which he would have had to suffer long in a state of woe had he not attained arahantship.
It may be presumed that when kamma energy is sufficiently destroyed with vedananupassana so that
it cannot give rise to another birth, the knowledge must arise that there is no more birth.25 This is the
most important assurance of the liberative experience. There is no reference to kammakkhaya in any
of the formulae expressing arahantship. But it is noteworthy that even elsewhere there is very little
reference to kammakkhaya,26 whereas ragakkhaya, lobhakkhaya, dosakkhaya and mohakkhaya find
frequent mention in the texts. The few instances where kammakkhaya does occur, it mostly describes
the doctrine of Nigantha Nataputta who attempted to make an end to suffering (dukkhakkhaya)
through the destruction of kamma (kammakkhaya).27 But kamma cannot be recognized or verified.
Therefore, the Buddha asked Jaina disciples whether they knew that they had done evil kamma in the
past, and whether they knew that so much suffering had been eliminated by their practice of penance
and so much suffering had yet to be eliminated. But they knew none of these. The Buddha
admonished his disciples to eliminate not kamma but evil mental states such as greed, hatred and
delusion, which are observable and verifiable, as they give rise to kamma. One very effective method
of doing so is the exercise of vedananupassana. When this exercise is practised for some time, the
disciple himself begins to notice that his negative mental states are on the wane. This has a
debilitating effect on kamma and it can be concluded that vedananupassana is an extremely effective
method of bringing about destruction of kamma.

As there is a close relationship between kamma and sankhara, the latter being used as a more precise
technical term having psychological connotations, the living Vipassana tradition maintains that deepseated sankharas come to the surface and get eliminated when one continues to practise
vedananupassana. The Dvayatanupassana Sutta28 expresses the same idea when it says
sankharanam nirodhena, natthi dukkhassa sambhavo-with the cessation of volitional activities, there is
no arising of suffering.

Notes: [References from VRI edition in brackets]

1. Anguttara Nikaya PTS 3.415 [VRI 2.6.63]
2. Sankappavitakka vedanasamosarana. Anguttara Nikaya PTS 4.385 [VRI 3.9.14]
3. Anguttara Nikaya Atthakatha PTS 4. 175 [VRI 3.9.14]
4. Sabbe dhamma vedanasamosarana. Anguttara Nikaya PTS 4.339 [VRI 3.8.83]
5. Anguttara Nikaya Attakatha PTS 4.158 [VRI 3.8.83]
6. Samyutta Nikaya PTS 2.65 [VRI 1.2.37]
7. Samyutta Nikaya PTS 4. 32 [VRI 2. 4. 146]
8. Majjhima Nikaya PTS 3. 203 [VRI 3. 289]; Anguttara Nikaya PTS 3. 72-186,[VRI 2. 5. 57] 5. 288
[VRI 2. 10. 216]
9. Samyutta Nikaya PTS 4. 132 [VRI 2. 4. 146]
10. Na hi nassati kassaci kammam. Suttanipata PTS 666 [VRI 671]
11. So...na tava kalam karoti yava na tam papakammam vyantihoti. Majjhima Nikaya 3.183 [VRI
3.267], PTS; Anguttara Nikaya PTS 1. 141 [VRI 1. 3. 36]
12. Anguttara Nikaya PTS 3. 415 [VRI 2. 6. 63]
13. Lobho doso moho kammanidanasambhavo. Lobhakkhaya dosakkhaya mohakkhaya
kammanidanasankhayo. Anguttara Nikaya PTS 5. 262 [VRI 3. 10. 174]
14. Majjhima Nikaya PTS 2. 391 [VRI 2. 81]; Anguttara Nikaya PTS 2. 232 [VRI 1. 4. 233]
15. Anguttara Nikaya PTS 1. 221[VRI 1. 3. 75]
16. Suttanipata PTS 738-739 [VRI 743]
17. Suttanipata PTS 416 [VRI 2. 744-45]
18. Majjhima Nikaya 1. 59, PTS [VRI 1. 113]
19. Sukhaya vedanaya raganusayo anuseti. Majjhima Nikaya 1. 303, PTS [VRI 1. 465]
20. Na hi nassati kassaci kammam. Suttanipata 666, PTS [VRI 671]
21. So sukham dukkham adukkhamasukham ce vedanam vedayati, visannutto nam vedayati.
Samyutta Nikaya 4. 209, PTS [VRI 2. 4. 254]
22. Vedananam khaya bhikkhu, nicchato parinibbuto. Suttanipata 739, PTS [VRI 744]
23. Samyutta Nikaya 4. 230, PTS [VRI 2. 4. 269]
24. Majjhima Nikaya 1. 104, PTS [VRI 2. 352]
25. ... ayam antima jati, natthidani punabbhavo ti. Majjhima Nikaya 1. 167, PTS [VRI 1. 280]; Khina
jati... naparam itthattayati. Majjhima Nikaya 1. 23, 38, PTS [VRI 1. 54,78]
26. Anguttara Nikaya 2. 239, PTS [VRI 1. 4. 238]; Majjhima Nikaya 1. 391, PTS [VRI 2. 81]
27. Majjhima Nikaya 1. 93, PTS [VRI 1. 179]
28. Suttanipata 731, PTS [VRI 736]

The Impact of Thorough Understanding (Sampajanna) on Sensations (Vedana)

Prof. N. U. Trivedi,
Department of History & Culture, Gujarat Vidyapith, Ahmedabad
It has been rightly said that all people are not alike. They differ considerably. In no respect is this
truer than in the field of sensations. Different people react differently to sensations. Even the same
sensations or similar sensations do not evoke the same or similar reactions. This is because some

people in this world are wise and some otherwise. Those who are wise understand sensations while
others do not.

Difference in Reactions
To understand this difference in reaction we must realize what sensations are and how thorough
understanding accompanied by wisdom affects them.
Sensation according to the Western interpretation is the 'operation of the senses'. It is the 'function of
the senses'. In fact, it is a 'mental condition or physical feeling resulting from the stimulation of a
sense organ'. Sensations produce a kind of impression on one's body and mind. This impression gives
rise to a certain condition or feeling.
This interpretation is a generalised perception. The Pali texts offer a more lucid explanation. In
Samyutta Nikaya,1 sensations have been compared to winds blowing from different directions and
these winds are sometimes dust-laden or dustless, sometimes hot or cold and sometimes they take
the form of fierce gales or gentle breezes. These sensations according to the texts are of three types.
They are pleasant, unpleasant or neutral.
These three types of sensations give rise to feelings of happiness, that is, attachment (raga), feelings
of aversion, that is, hatred (dosa), and feelings of confusion, that is, ignorance (moha), according to
the category to which they belong.

Raga - Dosa - Moha-Root Cause of Misery

The Buddha knew for certain that infatuated by ignorance, beings go to bad states (duggati) and he
stated this in Itivuttaka while addressing the monks, 'Bhikkhus, leave one thing, give up this one thing
(ignorance) and I shall stand guarantee for your non-return to this world.' He emphatically added that
the only way to destroy this ignorance was to comprehend it thoroughly (tam moham sammadannaya
pajahanti vipassino). He asserted the same thing about hatred (dosa) and attachment (raga).
However, one cannot eradicate raga, dosa, and moha unless one has a method to understand the true
nature of how they arise, make a person happy or unhappy, and their characteristics.

Arising of Raga, Dosa and Moha

A common man who does not know the true nature of sensations gets attached to pleasant sensations
and, thinking that they are permanent, develops raga. The same is true of dosa and moha. These
three in their turn give rise to dukkha. The precursor of these sensations is contact (phassa).

Seven characteristics of these sensations

One must know the true dhamma of these sensations. According to the Samyutta Nikaya they are
1. impermanent (anicca)
2. compounded (sankhata)
3. arising owing to a cause (paticcasamuppada)
4. perishable by nature (khaya dhamma)

5. passing away by nature (vaya dhamma)

6. detached by nature (viraga dhamma)
7. ceasing by nature (nirodha dhamma)

Sensations: their relation to the Noble Truths

The Pali texts, besides expounding the true nature of sensations and how they bring about dukkha,
delve deeper into this phenomenon. In the Anguttara Nikaya,2 there is a detailed explanation of how
the experience of bodily sensations is related to The Four Noble TruthsAnd for one who is actually experiencing bodily sensations, O meditators,
I teach, I expound the Truth-'This is suffering.'
I teach, I expound the Truth-'This is the arising of suffering.'
I teach, I expound the Truth-'This is the cessation of suffering.'
I teach, I expound the Truth-'This is the path leading to the cessation of suffering.'
The Nature of Sampajanna and its Role in Bringing about the Cessation of Suffering
The third and the most important and crucial of all the Noble Truths takes place when sampajanna
plays the key role. But what is sampajanna?
Sampajanna is understanding thoroughly with wisdom. It is a gradual process and consists of five

Five Steps of Sampajanna

First, the meditator must know consciously what is happening to him. He must be conscious and
careful about the arising of sensations and the resultant vices-raga, dosa and moha.
Second, this consciousness must help establish him firmly from moment to moment and create a
special kind of awareness in him.
Third, this awareness must be developed to such an extent that sensations become a matter of mere
observation and perfect understanding. They no longer create an impression on the body or the mind.
Fourth, having reached this state, the meditator must learn to dwell in that state of heightened
prolonged awareness, where the meditator no longer grasps anything. In fact, there is nothing for him
to grasp. This is not mere knowledge (as is the case with most of us) but actual realisation of that
state of non-grasping.
Fifth, by dwelling in this state of non-grasping for a prolonged period, the meditator experiences the
cessation of experience.
These five steps, taken firmly, consciously and confidently teach the meditator to step aside and stand
apart from what he experiences. Therefore, he does not allow sensations to create any impression on
him and becomes immune to all the after-effects of sensations.

Sampajanna Must be Accompanied by Exemplary Alertness

This however demands exemplary alertness on his part. It is said in the Sampajana Pabbam of the
Mahasatipatthana Sutta, 'One who has the highest goal in his mind, should always and forever be
watchful and be possessed of thorough understanding with wisdom on all occasions, in all situations,
while looking straight ahead and sideways, while bending and stretching, while wearing robes and
carrying a bowl, while chewing, drinking and savouring and even while attending the calls of nature,
while walking, standing, sitting, lying down, sleeping, waking, speaking and remaining silent.'

This shows that watchfulness on the one hand and the possession of thorough understanding with
wisdom on the other are both needed to attain liberation. Indeed, this sampajanna is the meditator's
armour, a jacket not just bullet-proof, but sorrow-proof, craving-proof, indulgence-proof.
This is the most precious gift that the Buddha's teaching gives us. The time-clock of Vipassana has
struck and the technique is again being spread by Shri S. N. Goenka, and before him, by his teacher
Sayagyi U Ba Khin.

Notes: [References from VRI edition in brackets]

1. Samyutta Nikaya, Vedana Samyutta, PTS 26.12.12 [VRI 2.4.249-268]
2. Anguttara Nikaya PTS 3.7.1 [VRI 1.3.62]

The Routine Duties of a Meditator: Sampajanna

Dhammacariya U Htay Hlaing
Yangon, Myanmar
Translated by Saya Ba Kyaw
There are four main necessities in the Vipassana task1. atapi-having arduous endeavour
2. sampajano-realising with right view
3. satima-having mindfulness
4. samadhi-having one-pointed concentration.
The task of Vipassana, of real meditation, is based on these four main necessities. Here samadhi is not
directly stated in the Mahasatipatthana Sutta, but according to the commentaries and subcommentaries, samadhi is included in the term satima.

The Meaning of Sampajanna

The word sampajannasampajanna that we are now going to discuss is also used in terms of
pajanatipajanati and sampajano. First of all, we have to know the true meaning of sampajanna. The
word sampajanna is derived from the combination of three syllables- sam + pa + janna
sam (rightfully, completely, by oneself)
pa (in different ways and means, specifically)
janna (knowing, realising).
From the viewpoint of terminology, the word sampajanna is defined by commentators and subcommentators in the above manner.1
Again, from the standpoint of ideological issues, this term is defined in order to have a precise
meaning in the following manner1. Asammohalakkhanam sampajannam
Unwavering knowledge is the characteristic of sampajanna. It is just like the knowledge of a person
who loses his way in a deep forest and finds the right way again.

2. Tiranarasam sampajannamtiranarasam sampajannam

This is the function to implement what one has firmly decided to perform.
3. Pavicayapaccupatthanampavicayapaccupatthanam
The nature of scrutinization appears in the realm of the meditator's mind.2

Different kinds of sampajanna

There are four different kinds of sampajanna1. satthaka sampajannasatthaka sampajanna-knowing what is beneficial and what is not.
2. sappaya sampajanna-knowing the appropriate time and situation when it may be beneficial.
3. gocara sampajannagocara sampajanna-always contemplating on the usual meditation objects,
whatever posture is assumed or whatever is being done.
4. asammoha sampajannaasammoha sampajanna-having clear, unwavering knowledge of material and
mental phenomena in the body and a clear outlook on life and the world.
The first of these four is beneficial in both mundane and supramundane affairs. It is not samatha nor
Vipassana, yet an aid to the meditation task. However, in the Visuddhimagga, the first two kinds of
sampajanna are called pariharika panna (the wisdom that should always be borne in mind).
The most important one for meditators is the third one, gocara sampajanna. It denotes that, apart
from the time when one is asleep, the meditation objects should constantly be contemplated. If one
makes the effort to have gocara sampajanna arise ceaselessly, there is no need to make asammoha
sampajanna arise; it will appear automatically.

The Arising of Asammohasampajanna

Relating to the term sampajanna, only the state of going backward and forward etc. can be called
sampajannapabba. Nevertheless, sampajanna should arise in every situation and at every moment.
Concerning the arising of asammoha sampajanna, detailed descriptions are given in the
commentaries. The notable facts are as followsThe body is similar to a cart; the cart itself cannot go alone, it must be drawn by oxen; but the cart
and oxen themselves cannot move. Only when the oxen are harnessed to the cart and driven by a
cart-driver, can the cart move.
The most important one here is the cart-driver. He is compared with the mind; the oxen are compared
with the element of motion (vayo dhatu). The other three elements (tayo mahabhutas) are caused by
the mind.
Of these four elements, when walking, the element of kinetic energy (tejo), and the element of motion
(vayo) are the leading factors and the element of solidity (pathavi) and the element of fluidity (apo)
are just followers. When lying or sitting or standing, pathavi and vayo are leading factors and the
remaining two are just followers.
All these explanatory notes are mentioned in the Mahasatipatthana Sutta, Visuddhimagga and
Vibhanga commentaries. To evaluate one's situation in meditation, it is necessary to know about them.

When meditating incessantly, by means of gocara sampajanna, the natural happenings of phenomena
can automatically be realized more and more deeply, by means of asammoha sampajanna. It may be
said that asammoha sampajanna is fulfilled if the following questions can be answered;
1. ko gacchati (Who is going? Who is the one that is going? Is there any creator?)
2. kassa gamanam (Whose action [of going] is it? Is there any creator that creates going?)
3. kim karana gacchati (Why does one go? Why does the action [of going] arise? What is the root
cause of [the action of] going?)
These sample questions are just for the case of 'going'. For every case, the questions may arise in the
same manner, and the answers should be understood accordingly. From the literary viewpoint, these
questions and answers are very long, but in the practical field of work they can be realized in one
week, as they are fundamental practices. It is very enjoyable to learn about them.
From the literary point of view again, they are namarupapariccheda-nana and paccayapariggaha-nana,
also called nataparinna, and sammasana nana and udayabbaya nana, also called tiranaparinna.3
In the view of the meditator, they are, indeed, very clear.
The Buddha's teaching about the full realisation of the difference between mentality and materiality at
the first stage is very clear. It is just like knowing a string of transparent amber beads, differentiating
what is string and what are amber beads. The knowledge of a meditator is very clear in view of cause
and effect. For example, it is obvious that wanting to go (cause) creates the action of going (effect),
In order to possess right view, gocara sampajanna should always be established and developed. So as
to make sampajanna arise in a quick manner, a system of principles for meditators is prescribed. It is
called 'gatapaccagatavatta-constant practice in going and coming'. The principle of this constant
practice had been prevailing for 1000 years, from the lifetime of the Buddha up to the Sri Lankan Age.
'The routine duties of a meditator or the principle of constant practice' were performed and practically
followed by bhikkhus through the ages, and they were successful in the task of their practice. Detailed
accounts of such incidents are mentioned in the commentaries.5
Let me give a small example. When bhikkhus went for their alms-round to the villages and came back
to their residence, they had to practise meditation constantly with mindfulness at every step on the
way. If they were careless or heedless at ten footsteps, they stepped backwards about ten steps and
started meditating from there again. Those who practised regularly in this way could reach the apex of
the ariyan stages even in their youth.
Though this is instructed only on the way of alms-round, it should be practised at every moment, even
at the time of eating, doing something, going to the lavatory, etc. Therefore, it is said that in Sri
Lanka there was no resthouse in which arahantship had not been attained. It is necessary to perform
meditation while eating, sleeping, taking a bath, etc.6
In fact, the task of anapana satipatthana is the old common road trodden by every previous Buddha.
Only the great noble ones are worthy of this noble task. Na ceva ittaram-it cannot be practised just for
a short moment; naca ittarajanasevitam-it is not worthy for the inferior ones; garukam
garukabhavanam-it should receive more effort than other subjects of meditation; it is necessary to
perform it with deep respect.7 Then the benefit arising out of it can become greater.
In this task of anapana, sati and sampajanna are needed more than in other meditation methods.
Therefore the Buddha expoundedNaham, bhikkhave, mutthassatissa asampajanassa anapanassatim vadami.

I do not give the method of anapana to those who are heedless and careless, devoid of sampajanna.8
May you all develop sampajanna and succeed in your meditation task easily and swiftly!

Notes: [References from VRI edition in brackets]

1. Dhamasangani Atthakatha 175, 192 [VRI 163]; Patisambhidamagga Atthakatha, 1.343 [VRI
1.1.108-109]; Samyutta Nikaya Atthakatha 1.74 [VRI 1.1.38]; Samyutta Nikaya Atthakatha 2.118
[VRI 1.2.73]; Vibhanga-Mulatika 2.180 [VRI 523]; Visuddhimagga-Tika 1.187 [VRI
1.85], Myanmar edition
2. Dhammasangani Atthakatha 1.219 [VRI 163]; Visuddhimagga 1.157 [VRI 1.85]; Mahaniddesa
Atthakatha 121, Myanmar edition [VRI 10]
3. Samyutta Nikaya Atthakatha 2.103, Myanmar edition [VRI 1.2.63]
4. Samannaphala Sutta Vipassana Nanakatha, Digha Nikaya Atthakatha 1.197-8, Myanmar edition
[VRI 1.234 Adayo]
5. Majjhima Nikaya Atthakatha 1.262-3 [VRI 1. 465]; Digha Nikaya Atthakatha 1. 165-182 [VRI 1.
214]; Samyutta Nikaya Atthakatha 3.220-3 [VRI 3.5.368]; Vibhanga Atthakatha 2.332-348 [VRI
523], Myanmar edition
6. Samyutta Nikaya Atthakatha 3.221 [VRI 3.5.368]; Vibhanga-Atthaktha 2.335 [VRI
523], Myanmar edition
7. Visuddhimagga 1.276 [VRI 1.230], Myanmar edition
8. Majjhima Nikaya 3.127 [VRI 3.149], Anapanassati Sutta; Majjhima Nikaya-Atthakatha 4. 100 [VRI
3. 149], Myanmar edition

Feeling and Right Perception in Vipassana Meditation

G. C. Banerjee
A French philosopher rightly pointed out long ago, 'One who knows something and acts differently
knows imperfectly.' In other words, one who knows perfectly acts according to his knowledge. So
simply knowing something or simply being aware of something is not sufficient for right action.
Vipassana meditation teaches us to see things as they are. Perception devoid of any wisdom-in-action
is meaningless, so true perception must include wisdom-in-action.
The main object of education should be to acquire knowledge about the self, and then, about other
things in the universe. In order to know oneself, in order to bring mental peace and harmony, one
should observe one's mental and physical behaviour. The process of observation must be scientific and
without any prejudice of dogma based on past experience accumulated in the storehouse of memory.
Any action born out of thought is bound to produce contradictions because thought itself is limited.
Therefore, action born out of thought is not right action. The only other instrument left is feeling
(vedana) not associated with emotion. Vedana can provide us with an instrument for observation of
the activities of the body and mind in order to know the self.
Vedana is born out of contact between a sense organ and its corresponding object. The contact is
spontaneous and natural. We know that when there is a living body, there is breath and when there is
mind, there is thought. The arising of breath in the body and the arising of thought in the mind can
only be known through vedana. Therefore, vedana is inseparable from the body and mind and one can
know oneself through vedana. Vedana are of three kinds-pleasant, unpleasant and neutral. If we do
not see its true nature, pleasant vedana generates craving, unpleasant vedana generates aversion and
neutral vedana generates ignorance, then all the three kinds of feeling in turn produce greed, hatred,
and delusion. These products are the root cause of human suffering.

Buddha, as a practical physician, was primarily concerned with the eradication of human suffering in
this present life. He found out a cause and prescribed the medicine for the removal of the cause. This
medicine is Vipassana meditation. If we concern ourselves solely with the theoretical teachings and do
not implement them in real life, we cannot cure the ills. Rather than merely reciting his prescriptions,
we must implement the teachings and see whether the sufferings are eliminated. Vipassana is the sole
way of ending the suffering of the present life. Vipassana helps us to see things as they are, in their
true nature. If we can see the real nature of things, sampajanna, or wisdom-in-action, will operate.
Without sampajanna, Vipassana is incomplete and insufficient and we cannot deal with vedana
because, unlike thought, it is non-accumulating. As vedana is inseparable from living, so sampajanna
is inseparable from Vipassana. Vedana also plays an important role in the cyclic movement of the
causal connection of dependent origination. If vedana is not seen in its true nature it will lead to tanha
(craving) and and tanha will lead to upadana (clinging) and the vicious circle starts. But when we see
the vedana in its true perspective, then we see feeling as feeling. The feeling feels, it is not my feeling
or your feeling, it is not a man's feeling or a woman's feeling, it is simply a feeling born of contact. The
pleasant feeling is dukkha because it goes away after it appears; the unpleasant feeling is also dukkha
because it gives pain; the neutral feeling is dukkha because it produces ignorance. So feeling is
painful, impermanent, and because it is a product of conditional relation, there is no self or feeler in it.
The nature of feeling, if seen in this light, will not be a matter of taste and attachment; and if we do
not cling to it, it will meet a natural death. As it is the nature of all natural phenomena to arise and
pass away, the circle is broken and we no longer move on the way of suffering. In other words, the
road of suffering is closed. Now this breaking up of the circle will lead us to enlightenment. If this
constant effort is maintained in our non-accumulating perception-action, we can realize the other end,
the truth of all truths, the peace of all peace and the end of all ends.
Vipassana is the simplest as well as the most difficult form of meditation. It is the simplest because it
tells us to do nothing except to be aware and watchful like a witness. At the same time, it is also the
most difficult because our mind is conditioned to do something with expectation of a definite result.
Constant effort is necessary in order to break this conditioning and this effort is the process of
Vipassana. Human beings have tried various methods like Bhakti, Yoga and Karma to attain peace of
mind, but instead of attaining peace, the world has suffered from poverty, jealousy, war and
destruction. The second half of the present century has witnessed the revival of Vipassana meditation
after 2500 years. The way of Vipassana is the only way left for humanity to discover itself. The method
of total inaction as envisaged in Vipassana meditation will enable one to live with total energy; action
born out of love and compassion will be the right action, arising out of right perception, which will lead
to the end of human suffering.

DharmaIts Definition and Universal Application by S. N. Tandon

S. N. Tandon
In literary records the usage of the word dharma can be traced back to the Vedic times. The more
prevalent form of the word, however, was dharman. Both these words are derived from a verbal root
dh,1 which means to bear, support, sustain.
According to an old Indian tradition, the sages of the past witnessed Dharma, and then they
transmitted it to those who had not witnessed it, through mantras2. This implies that the Dharma
witnessed by the sages must have been something uncommon and exceptional, which had not fallen
to the lot of the common man to witness.
A question would naturally arise as to what the sages witnessed that was so invaluable. From a careful
reflection on the Vedic passages, it appears that they witnessed the nature or characteristic property
of the various objects of the universewhether animate or inanimate. This formed their realisation of
Dharma, which they transmitted to later generations, through Vedic mantras.

The words dharma and dharman have had a chequered history as far as their usage in Indian
literature is concerned. In the earlier period, these meant "support, law, truth, duty, manner, quality
or characteristic". In the course of time, however, these came to have several other meanings, such as
"religion, ethics, good works, the customary observances of a caste, sect, etc."

Examples of Usage of the Word "Dharma" in Literature

A study of Indian literature reveals that two main meanings of the word "dharma" have been
preserved throughout the ages:
to sustain (its generic meaning, based on the word dh ), and
nature or characteristic (a specific meaning, based on realisation).
A few examples:* Mitr-varu tv paridhatt dhruvea dharma.3
May (the divine pair) Mitra-Varua sustain thee with inviolable character.
* Ea dharmo ya ea (sryah) tapatyea hda sarva dhrayatyeteneva sarva dhta.4
The blazing of the sun is its characteristic. This, verily, sustains all this. It is because of this that
everything is sustained.
* Dharmea sarvamida parightam.5
All this is sustained because of its nature.
* Dhrad dharmamityhuh.6
Dharma is called so because it sustains.
* Dharmo vastusvabhvah syt.7
Dharma means the nature of an object.
* "Kusal dhamm akusal dhamm" ti disu sabhvo attho.8
In phrases such as "wholesome dharmas" and "unwholesome dharmas," the word "dharma" means
* Dhatte dharmah prajh sarvh.9
Dharma sustains all beings.
* Sahajo rpatattvaca dharmah.10
Dharma means natural quality of an object.
* Dharmo str puya cre svabhvopamayoh kratau.11
Dharma, which is non-feminine, means merit, conduct, nature, comparison and sacrifice.
* Dharmo str sukte smye svabhve na tu somape.12
Dharma, which is non-feminine, means good deeds, equanimity, nature, abstemiousness.
* Dharmah svabhvah tm syt.13
Dharma means nature as well as soul.
* Dharmah vastuguarpe svabhve.14
Dharma stands for the quality of a thing, its nature.
Thus, Dharma means the natural state or condition of beings and things, what sustains, the law of
their being, what is right for them to be, the very stuff of their being.15

Limitations of the Vedas

There can hardly be any doubt that the Vedas are a repository of profound knowledge since they are
based on the actual realisation of Dharma by the sages, but these do not serve the purpose of a
common person for the following reasons:
archaic language;

no systematic exposition of Dharma which could appeal to the modern mind;

absence of any living tradition which could lead its votaries to actual realisation of Dharma, like the
primeval sages.

Dharma-Stra and Later Treatises

The oldest texts dealing directly with Dharma are known as the Dharma-stras (also called Prvamms).16 According to these, dharma means performance of duties in accordance with the Vedic
injunctions. These devote themselves to the duties of castes and stages of life (ramas). Through
these works one can clearly see an attempt on the part of the priestly class to transform the ancient
laws for their own advantage, and to make their influence felt in all directions. Right from this stage,
the universal character of Dharma, witnessed by the primeval sages, started losing its value because
of its assuming a sectarian tinge.
The later treatises on Dharma, multifarious though they are,17 are also not helpful in the proper
understanding of Dharma for the following reasons:
their exposition of Dharma is not uniform;
they do not lay down clear, successive steps enabling a person to walk on the path of Dharma; and
there is no living tradition which could offset the above disadvantages.
All these treatises help in understanding Dharma only at the intellectual level, which does not meet
the precise requirement of its actual realisation, as fulfilled by the primeval sages.
The Bhagavadgt, popularly known as the "The Song Celestial", is reputed to contain the
quintessence of the Upaniadic teaching. It is a marvellous composition widely acclaimed as a
masterpiece for its lofty theme. It throws a flood of light on the various aspects of Dharma, including
its practical aspects. However, this can also only be appreciated at the intellectual level, since there is
no living tradition which could take it to the actual level where one can absorb the teaching.
It is only by the actual practice of Dharma that one can vanquish all sorts of mental impurities to
become an enlightened person. When ignorance is dispelled from the mind, one realizes all sorts of
dharmas and knows through insight the cause of each. Then all doubts are set at rest once and for
all.18 This happened in the case of Gotama the Buddha who, on reaching this stage, exclaimed with
amazement, Pubbe ananusuttesu dhammesu cakkhu udapdi [My eyes opened to dharmas that I
had never heard before]. 19

A Living Tradition
The Tipiaka contains a detailed account of the various dharmas realised by the Buddha. If not for a
living tradition which enables one to realize these dharmas at the actual (experiential) level, their
mere presentation in the Tipiaka would have been as unproductive as their depiction in the Vedic
mantras. Luckily such a living tradition is in existence, thanks to the chain of selfless, devoted
teachers who preserved Dharma for posterity. All sorts of people, irrespective of their background, are
taking advantage of it. A discussion on the dharmas spelt out by the Buddha would therefore be

The Buddhas Exposition of Dharma

The Buddhas exposition of Dharma can be briefly stated as follows:
I. Dharma is infinite
Dharma means to bear, support, sustain.20 It also means nature or characteristic.21 Thus, Dharma is
that which bears its own nature or characteristic.
There are two fields of existence: mundane and supra-mundane.

The entire mundane field from Niraya-loka to Arpa Brahma-loka has the characteristic of
impermanence. Also the fields of five aggregates (that is, all material and mental objects), six
elements (earth, fire, water, air, ether and consciousness), and six bases (eye, ear, nose, tongue, skin
and mind, and their own respective objects), all have this characteristic of impermanence.
Whatever is impermanent has the inherent characteristic of arising, passing away, decaying, dying.
This leads to suffering.
The supra-mundane field lies outside the field of mind and matter. It is permanent in nature, and has
the inherent characteristic of non-arising, non-decay, eternity, immortality. This leads to bliss.
Nothing lies beyond these two fields: mundane and supra-mundane. Each of them is governed by its
own nature. In this sense, Dharma is all-pervasive. That is why it is said: Appamo dhammo
[Dharma is infinite]. 22
II. Dharma as a Mental Object
Whatever is borne by the mind at time constitutes its dharma during that period.
Just as the five senseseye, ear, nose, tongue and skinhave for their objects vision, sound, smell,
taste and touch respectively, so the mind as the sixth sense has dharmas for its object..23
The mental objects, called cetasikas, are of fifty-two types. These fall under two categories: kusala
(wholesome) or akusala (unwholesome). A dharma qualifies to be called kusala if carrying it in the
mind proves beneficial to its carrier, and it qualifies to be called akusala if carrying it in the mind
proves otherwise (See Figure 1).
Likewise, some other words came into vogue, such as:
pua dhamma (dharma by carrying which the mind becomes pure);
ppa dhamma (dharma by carrying which the mind becomes impure);
sukka dhamma (dharma by carrying which the mind becomes bright);
kaha dhamma (dharma by carrying which the mind becomes dark);
ariya dhamma (dharma by carrying which the mind becomes noble);
anariya dhamma (dharma by carrying which the mind becomes ignoble); and so on.
III. Dharma as the Carrier of Wholesome Mental Factors
Prudence requires that one should carry in ones mind mental factors that are wholesome, beneficial
and advantageous. This, for obvious reasons, is for ones own good. Hence, the word dharma came to
be used in an exclusively good sense as well, the opposite being adharma.
IV. Dharma as Duty
Whatever proves fit to be carried in the mind should also prove fit to be carried out as ones duty.
Conversely, whatever is not found fit to be carried in the mind cannot entail an obligation to carry it
out as ones duty. Thus, one need not be expected to treat some nefarious design in the mind as ones
duty. Hence Dharma came to be called duty, and adharma, non-duty.
The Buddha used to deliver sermons on both dharma and adharma.24 He wanted people to
understand what is wholesome or unwholesome, what is reproachable or irreproachable, what should
be pursued or should not etc. He would exhort people to strive to abandon unwholesome dharmas and
to acquire wholesome dharmas.25
V. Dharma as Universal Truth
Dharma means universal truth.26 It refers to laws of nature or the nature of laws (dhammaniymat). In the Vedas this was called ta.27 All laws of nature are of a permanent character.

Laws of Nature
Some of the laws enunciated by the Buddha are:
The Three Characteristics of Existence

"Whether enlightened persons appear in the world or not, it still remains a firm condition, an
immutable fact and a fixed law that all formations are impermanent, all formations are subject to
suffering and everything is without self."28
The Law of Cause and Effect
"If this is, that comes to be; from the arising of this, that arises; if this is not, that does not come to
be; from the stopping of this, that is stopped."29
The Law of Causal Genesis
"With the base of ignorance, reaction arises; with the base of reaction, consciousness arises; with the
base of consciousness, mind and body arise; with the base of mind and body, the six senses arise;
with the base of the six senses, contact arises; with the base of contact, sensation arises; with the
base of sensation, craving and aversion arise; with the base of craving and aversion, attachment
arises; with the base of attachment, the process of becoming arises; with the base of the process of
becoming, birth arises; with the base of birth, ageing and death arise, together with sorrow,
lamentation, physical and mental suffering and tribulations. Thus arises the entire mass of
This is the "forward order". The "reverse order" shows how this entire mass of suffering ceases to be.
No Solidity in the Material World
"The entire world is in flames,
the entire world is going up in smoke;
the entire world is burning,
the entire world is vibrating."31
Ancient laws are also recalled on certain occasions, e.g., "Hatred begets hatred, it can be vanquished
only through love",32 or "Truth, verily, is an immortal homily".33 Such laws are called santana (i.e.,
of hereditary nature).34
Direct Realisation of Dharma by the Buddha
The various aspects of Dharma referred to above were not propounded by the Buddha on the basis of
some speculation, hearsay or traditional belief. Each one of these was realized by him through a
complete probe of the mind-matter phenomenon and by witnessing the truth that lay beyond. Thus,
observing truth from the grossest to the subtlest, he spanned the entire mundane and supra-mundane
fields, along with their characteristics, and then proclaimed that Dharma, comprising both these fields,
is "infinite".
Similarly, he discovered that the mind always carries some object or the other, be it anger, hatred, ill
will or loving-kindness, compassion, goodwill, and so on. He referred to these mental objects as
dharma. Then he realized that mental objects such as anger, hatred and ill will have the characteristic
of defiling the mind, making one miserable. He also realized that mental objects such as lovingkindness, compassion and goodwill have the characteristic of purifying the mind, making one cheerful.
He called these mental objects akusala or kusala, as the case may be, on the basis of such
realisations. It was not because of some blind belief or just to establish some sort of authority.
The Buddha never proclaimed anything unless he had actually realized it at the deepest level of his
mind. In this respect he was like the primeval sages who had also witnessed Dharma directly and had
then proclaimed it for posterity. The Buddha is also called a Great Sage (mahesi).35
The direct realisation of Dharma is no longer the monopoly of these sages. The technique of Vipassana
meditation taught by the Buddha (stray references to which are traceable in the Vedas also)36 is the
main tool for truth realisation. This is now within reach of everybody because of the living tradition
which has brought it to our doorsteps.

Definition Of Dharma

Keeping the foregoing discussion in mind, Dharma may be defined as the laws of nature or nature of
laws which, when realised through insight, lead one gradually towards the goal of full liberation.
Three Essential Ingredients
This definition takes care of the following three essential ingredients of Dharma:
The focal point is laws of nature or nature of laws, cutting across all sectarianism.
These laws, or their nature, have to be realized through insight at the experiential level, thereby
saving Dharma from being degraded into a mere intellectual game.
One should have the feeling of being led on to the final goal of full liberation, which will make one
persevere on the path of Dharma.
Implications of this Definition
This definition will have the following implications:
On account of the practical nature of Dharma, one will be able to distinguish clearly between Dharma
and religion, the latter being merely a profession of faith in some divinity or saintly person.37
On account of the element of self-introspection, one will not develop blind faith and one will always
want to examine Dharma by the touchstone of ones own intuitive wisdom.38
One will come to realize the negligible value, or even utter futility, of rites and rituals.39
One will start realizing the fruits of Dharma here-and-now,40 the most precious fruit being evenness
of mind in all the vicissitudes of life.41
Reaping more and more rewards through applied Dharma, one will feel the urge to make Dharma
ones refuge42 in the real sense of the term.
One will no longer feel the necessity of remaining tied to a guru for all times to come.43
One will begin to appreciate the real intent of scriptural texts and age-old maxims and sayings.44
Distinctive Feature of Dharma
As already indicated, the distinctive feature of Dharma is that it should be capable of being realised at
the experiential level through insight, and applied in daily life. Unless Dharma becomes applicable in
daily life, it will be like a flower that is lovely and beautiful to look at, but does not emit any
With the proper application of Dharma in daily life, one is bound to get amazing results. When this
starts happening, one begins to realise sooner rather than later that applied Dharma is nothing but an
art of living, as it keeps one happy and contented in all situations.
Universal Application of Dharma
Although Dharma is universal and has nothing to do with sectarianism, the misconception that these
are one and the same has prevailed in India for a long time. Even in the Buddhas time there were
people who would use such terms as "my dharma" and "anothers dharma":
They call their own dharma perfect and the others dharma imperfect. Thus contending, they quarrel
with each other. They consider their own depositions to be true.46
To guard people against such statements, the Buddha gave a clear and succinct message to the
Klmas, who also felt perturbed by similar talk on certain occasions:
Now look, you Klmas. Be not misled by report or tradition or hearsay. Be not misled by
proficiency in any scripture, or by reasoning or logic or reflection on and approval of some theory, or
because some view conforms with ones own inclinations, or out of respect for the prestige of a
teacher. But when you know for yourselves: these things are unwholesome, these things are

blameworthy, these things are censured by the wise; these things when practiced and observed,
conduce to loss and sorrowthen do ye reject them. But if at any time you know for yourselves: these
things are wholesome, these things are praised by the intelligent; these things, when practiced and
observed, conduce to welfare and happiness, then Klmas, do ye, having practiced them, abide.47
Thus, the accent in this message was on realising for oneself 48 for the sake of ones welfare. Such
realisation comes through the practice of Vipassana, the technique of meditation taught by the
Buddha. This technique is universal to the core, concerned solely with the practice of morality (sla),
mastery over the mind (samdhi) and insight (pa).
Promotion of Dharma by Emperor Aoka
Nearly two centuries after the passing away of the Buddha, the Emperor Aoka tried this universal
technique for the spiritual development of his people, with remarkable success. This earned him great
fame in the annals of the world. H.G. Wells, the renowned historian of modern times, pays glowing
tribute to him in the following words:
Amidst the tens of thousands of names of monarchs that crowd the columns of history, their
majesties and graciousnesses and serenities and royal highnesses and the like, the name of Aoka
shines, and shines almost alone, a star.49
Emperor Aoka explains in one of his edicts50 how he could achieve amazing success while his
predecessors could not. According to him, in olden times other rulers also wanted their subjects to
progress by the adequate promotion of Dharma. He himself was filled with a similar desire, and to
achieve this goal he undertook various measures. He provided several types of amenities to the public,
as his predecessors had, but doing this proved of no avail. Then he exhorted people to follow certain
dharma practices, so that they might develop compassion, charity, truthfulness, purity, gentleness and
goodness. For this purpose he adopted two means: the issue of dharma proclamations and the
practice of deep introspection (nijhati).
In fact, the exhortations to follow dharma practices proved of little avail; much more was
accomplished through deep introspection. A forty-three-foot-high pillar, standing atop a three-storey
citadel of Sultan Firioz Shah (13511388 A.D.) in Delhi, bears an inscription to this effect; this is
eloquent testimony to the success of deep introspection in moulding the human character for the
better (See Plates 13).
The Aokan word nijhati corresponds to the Pli word nijjhatti, occurring in the Tipiaka,51 where it
has been enumerated as a "strength". It means "deep introspection", or "insight", i.e, Vipassana. Thus
Dharma, according to Aoka, progressed in his time mainly because of Vipassana, taught by him to
his people. For this purpose his approach was purely non-sectarian. The Dharma-Mahmtras, the
class of officers appointed by him for its propagation, approached all sections of society without any
discrimination whatsoever. They occupied themselves with all sects of ascetics and householders.52

Proclamations versus Actual Practice

India today is trying to emulate the ideals of Aoka: it has adopted the emblems that adorned his
pillars everywhere, it is spreading messages of peace and goodwill to all other nations, it is resisting
the temptation to engage in war even in the face of provocation, it is trying to use tolerance to deal
with the spectre of fanaticism, its constitution provides for equality of all people before the law. But in
spite of all this, the goal of peace and harmony is nowhere in sight.
The lacuna is obvious. Aoka himself had realised the lacuna in his earlier attempts at ameliorating
the lot of the people. He confessed that mere proclamations did not help. It was the actual practice of
Dharma by the people that brought the desired results. Present-day India, or for that matter any
country, can make its people happy and harmonious, with positive outlooks, by providing them with
facilities for the actual practice of Dharma. Real happiness and harmony dawn only when people
develop compassion, charity, truthfulness, purity, gentleness and goodness in themselves. Aoka

succeeded in inculcating these virtues amongst his people through the actual practice of Vipassana.
The same results are bound to follow if this lacuna is removed in modern India.
History of the Vipassana Technique
Vipassana is one of Indias most ancient meditation techniques. It contains the essence of what the
Buddha practiced and taught during his lifetime. In those days large numbers of people in
northern India were freed from the bonds of suffering by practicing Vipassana, and they attained high
levels of achievement in all spheres of life. Over time, the technique spread to the neighbouring
countries of Burma, Sri Lanka, Thailand and others, where it had the same ennobling effect.
Five centuries later, the noble heritage of Vipassana disappeared from India. The purity of the teaching
was lost elsewhere as well. InBurma, however, it was preserved by a chain of devoted teachers. From
generation to generation, for over two thousand years, this dedicated lineage has transmitted the
technique in its pristine purity.
In our time, Vipassana has been reintroduced to India, as well as to citizens of more than eighty other
countries, by Shri S.N. Goenka, who was authorised to teach Vipassana by the renowned Burmese
Vipassana teacher Sayagyi U Ba Khin. In India ten-day Vipassana courses have been held since 1969,
and in other countries since 1979. During this short span of time nearly thirty centres have been
established worldwide, to enable people to practice Vipassana exclusively. Thus ever-increasing
numbers of people are getting the opportunity to learn this art of living, which brings lasting peace
and happiness to people from all walks of life.
A Non-Sectarian Technique
Although Vipassana was rediscovered and taught by the Buddha, it cannot be termed "Buddhist". The
Buddha never called his followers Buddhists, he called them dhammaha53 (dharma wayfarers). The
technique contains nothing of a sectarian nature, and it can be accepted and applied by people of any
background. The basis of the technique is the recognition that all human beings share the same
problems, and that a pragmatic method which can eradicate these problems can be universally
Vipassana courses are open to anyone sincerely wishing to learn the technique irrespective of race,
caste, faith or nationality. Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, Jains, Buddhists, Christians, Jews, as well as
members of other religions, have all successfully completed Vipassana courses. Besides permanent
centres, courses are also held in schools, colleges, universities, hostels, libraries, panchayatwadis,
dharmals, temples, mosques, churches, nunneries, vihras, uprayas, aramas, hotels, jails,
etc.54 People from all backgrounds who practice Vipassana find that they become better human
Impressed by these results, the Government of India has lately decided to introduce Vipassana in
prisons. In 1994, the largest Vipassana course to date, for over one thousand prison inmates, was
held in Tihar Jail, Delhi, which happens to be the biggest prison in Asia in terms of its population. The
course proved to be remarkable in many ways. The prison inmates confessed openly that it was a
unique experience for them and that they felt a distinct change for the better in their behaviour
patterns. Similar courses are now being held in other prisons as well, and the demand for such
courses is constantly on the increase.
Now Vipassana has come to be recognised as an unfailing instrument for dealing with all sorts of ills of
present-day society. It is looked upon as a means for human uplift. Dharma, too, has all through the
ages been looked upon as an unfailing instrument for human uplift. In this respect, Vipassana and
Dharma should appear to be one and the same. But the difference lies in the fact that while one gets
all the good results from Vipassana, one does not get these from Dharma. This is because Dharma has
lost its universal character and become sectarian. Once its universal character is restored, it will also
start giving all the benefits expected from it.

The Universal Character of Vipassana or Dharma

The universal character of Vipassana or Dharma lies in "self-introspection", for which the Enlightened
One proclaimed:
All those who, in the past, purified their deeds of body, speech and mind did so only through selfintrospection (paccavekkhaa);
all those who, in the future, will purify their deeds of body, speech and mind, will do so only through
self-introspection; and
all those who, in the present, are purifying their deeds of body, speech and mind are doing so only
through self-introspection.55

Dharma (masc. & neut.) - from dh + man (suffix) [dharati lokn, dhriyate puytmabhiriti v]
(Halyudha-koa, ed. Jayaakara Jo) Also, "dhrat dharma" (Syaa on gveda, 3.17.1)
"sktktadharma ayo babhvuste varebhyo sktktadharmabhya upadeena mantrn
saprduh" (Nirukta by Yska)
Maitrya sahit (4.9.1)
atapatha-brhmaa (Mdhyandinya) (
Taittirya- rayaka (10.62.1)
Mahbhrata (ntiparva, 108/11)
Jain Lakaval
Itivuttaka-ahakath, ed. Dr Nathamal Tatia (p. 47)
Brahma-mahpura, ed. Dr K.B. Sharma (p. 19)
Abhidhna-cintmai, ed. Pt. Hargovind str
Medin-koa, ed. Pt. Jaganntha str
Vaijayant-koa, ed. Pt. Hargovind str
Halyudha-koa, ed. Jayaakara Jo (782)
Majjhima-nikya, Vol. I (PTS edn.) (p. xix)
The difficult nature of these texts can be visualized from the Preface appearing in the English
translation of the Stras: "The translator knows how difficult it was to understand the Mms in
interpreting the Vedic rituals of the ancient Aryans and is still not sure whether he has correctly
explained them." (Mms Stras of Jaimini; pub. Motilal Banasidas.)
Obviously Dharma expounded in texts, which are not even intelligible to scholars, can be of little use
to ordinary people.

For example, those of Manu, Yjavalkya, Kyapa, Baudhyana, Nrada, Hrta, Uanas,
Agras, Yama, Atri, Savarta, Daka, ttapa, akha, Ktyyana, Gautama, Bhaspati and so
"Yad have ptubhavanti dhamm,
tpino jhyato brhmaassa;
athassa kakh vapayanti sabb
yato pajnti sahetu-dhamma" (Udna-pli, 1.1.2)
Sayutta-nikya, 12.4.5
"dhretti dhammo"
"dhamma-saddo pakati-pariyyo." (Mahvagga-k on Dgha-nikya 1.17.17)
Aguttara-nikya, 4.7.7
"manaca paicca dhamme uppajjati via, manovia tveva sakha gacchati." (Majjhimanikya, I.38.2.5)
"dhamma ca vo, bhikkave, desessmi, adhamma ca." (Aguttara-nikya, 10.14.5)
"raddhaviriyo viharati akusalna dhammna pahnya, kusalna dhammna uppdya."
(Majjhima-nikya, II.35.5.25)
"saccapariyyo hi ... dhamma-saddo." (Pthikavagga-k on Dgha-nikya, 10.331)
"tasya dhtirvjinni hanti" (Thought of Eternal Law removes transgressions.) (gveda, 4.23.8)
"uppd v tathgatna anuppd v tathgatna hit va s dhtu dhammahitat
dhammaniymat idappaccayat... sabbe sakhr anicc ti; sabbe sakhr dukkh ti; sabbe
dhamm anatt ti." (Aguttara-nikya, 3.14.4)
"iti imasmi sati ida hoti, imassuppd ida uppajjati; imasmi asati ida na hoti, imassa
nirodh ida nirujjhati." (Sayutta-nikya, 12.21.22)
"avijj-paccay sakhr; sakhra-paccay via; via-paccay nmarpa; nmarpapaccay sayatana; sayatana-paccay phasso; phassa-paccay vedan; vedan-paccay
tah; tah-paccay updna; updna-paccay bhavo; bhava-paccay jti; jti-paccay
jar-maraa-soka-parideva-dukkha-domanassupys sambhavanti. Evametassa kevalassa
dukkhakhandhassa samudayo hoti." (Majjhima-nikya, I.38.3.9)
"sabbo dpito loko... sabbo loko pakampito." (Sayutta-nikya, 5.7.7)
"na hi verena verni, sammantdha kudcana; averena hi sammanti, esa dhammo sanantano."
(Dhammapada, 1.1.5)
"sacca va amat vc, esa dhammo sanantano." (Sutta-nipta, 3.3.49)
"dhammoti sanantano pavedhammo." (Slakkhandhavagga-abhinavak 2.2.162)
Abhidhnappadpik, ed. Waskauw Subhti, Colombo (2.1033)
for example, "yo vivbhi vipayati bhuvan sa ca payati, sa nah paradati dviah." (Atharvaveda, 6.34.4)

Oxford Advanced Learners Dictionary, Oxford University:

"Religion: 1. Belief in the existence of God or gods, who has/have created the universe and given man
a spiritual nature which continues to exist after the death of the body. 2. Particular system of faith and
worship based on such a belief, the Christian, Buddhist and Hindu religions."
"dhammoti pa" (Sumagala-vilsin, III.5.150)
Refer to Aokas Rock Edict IX.
"sandihiko-akliko (Dgha-nikya, 2.3.159)
"phuhassa lokadhammehi, citta yassa na kampati" (Khuddaka-pho, 5.11)
"dhamma-sarao" (Dgha-nikya, 2.3.165)
"atta-sarao" (Dgha-nikya, 2.3.165)
for example, "rogya-param lbh, nibbna parama sukha" (Health is the highest gain,
Nirva is the highest bliss.) (Majjhima-nikya, II.25.2.10-14)
"yath pi rucira puppha, vaavanta agandhaka; eva subhsit vc, aphal hoti
akubbato." (Dhammapada, 4.51)
"saka hi dhamma paripuamhu,
aassa dhamma pana hnamhu;
eva pi viggahya vivdayanti,
saka saka sammutimhu sacca." (Mahniddesa-pi, 1.13.139)
"Etha tumhe, klm, m anussavena, m paramparya, m itikirya, m piakasampadnena,
m takkahetu, m nayahetu, m kra-parivitakkena, m diinijjhnakkhantiy, m
bhabbarpatya, m samao no gar ti. Yad tumhe, klm, attan va jneyythaime dhamm
akusal, ime dhamm svajj, ime dhamm viu-garahit, ime dhamm samatt samdinn
ahitya dukkhya savattantti, atha tumhe, klma, pajaheyytha......yad tumhe, klm,
attan va jneyythaime dhamm kusal, ime dhamm anavajj, ime dhamm viuppasatth,
ime dhamm samatt samdinn hitya sukhya savattant ti, atha tumhe, klm,
upasampajja vihareyytha." (Aguttara-nikya, 3.7.5)
"paccatta veditabbo hi dhammo." (Dgha-nikya, 2.8.354)
The Outline History of the World, by H.G. Wells
Delhi-Topra Pillar Edict VII
Delhi-Topra Pillar Edict VII
"dhammassa gutto medhv, dhammaho ti pavuccati." (The intelligent one protected by Dharma is
called "dhammaho".) (Dhammapada, 19.257)
54. Sayagyi U Ba Khin Journal, V.R.I. (p. 295303)
55. Majjhima-nikya, II.11.2.6

Vipassana and Business Management - by Jayantilal Shah

Business Management
With the growing complexities of business- especially industrial business-the use of meditation
techniques has become popular during the last few years. However, they have been used mainly as
stress-relieving techniques for executives subjected to the tensions of achieving targets.
Management of a medium scale industrial business requires organization, quality control, production,
purchasing, marketing, fund flow, administration, etc. Each of these operations requires clear thinking,
planning, coordination, execution, cost accounting, and profitability projections. There are presently
several colleges which teach this type of management. There are special techniques of management
for large organizations with turnovers of three hundred crores rupees (one hundred million U.S.
dollars) and over. Research and development methods are also available for upgrading the technology
of these business.
Need for Meditation
Where exactly does meditation come into the picture? To get an answer, we have to look to more
industrialized countries such as the United States and Germany. The nature of the societies produced
by advanced industrialization has been characterized by heavy alcohol, drug and cigarette
consumption; pandemic divorces and broken families; economic recession and job insecurities; and
strong feelings of competition and frustration leading to heart attacks, suicide and so on.
Fragmented Society
People who become business managers come from this fragmented society. Business schools teach
them to work for more profits and higher salaries, and the stress involved leads to greater
consumption of drugs and alcohol, and various health problems such as hyper-tension. The level of
equanimity in such societies deteriorates. The business owners, executives and managers develop
feelings of pride, prejudice, jealousy and arrogance and experience their concomitants: depression,
anxiety, stress and other harmful effects.
Positive Transformation
The Vipassana meditation technique improves the lives of executives and business managers by
transforming their attitudes. Prejudice is replaced by compassion; jealousy changes into joy at the
success of others; greed and arrogance are replaced by generosity and humility, and so on.
This transformation of attitude results in stress reduction, and mental equanimity and balance. It is a
creative force capable of inducing a dynamic work approach in subordinate staff. The positive change
is brought about by a change in the attitude and actions of the executive-to polite and compassionate
behaviour, gentle speech, and a mind full of love and friendliness. This positive change in
consciousness is the aim of genuine meditation practice, and it forms a new and advanced basis for
business and industrial management.
Present Scene
Business management is presently judged by profits or "money-making" ability. Managers are
evaluated by their ability to make more money by increasing product turnover, developing new
technologies with better pay-offs, or decreasing costs through new inventions. In return, they want
higher salaries and more requisites. Although there is nothing inherently wrong with generating profits
and an increase in incomes, the real aim of an economic venture is to create a wealth which combines
money with health and happiness. Vipassana makes a significant contribution towards improving the
mental health and happiness of individuals-vital components of wealth.
Human Resource Development
Many companies currently have human resource development departments, popularly known as HRD.

HRD is a welcome new concept because human beings working in business or industry should not be
taken for granted. They need to be developed. One of the parameters in this process is the
development of mutual respect, which naturally improves interpersonal relations. Meditation will also
help to achieve this, enabling us to overcome the hostility towards fellow human beings- colleagues,
subordinates, superiors, government officers and others. This hostility manifests as anger, arrogance,
jealousy, vengeance, selfishness, greed, prejudice and ill will. Lectures, seminars, books, discussions
and so on give some understanding of these subjects. Nevertheless, more than 95% of the negative
material in the human mind remains unaffected despite an intellectual understanding of the value of
overcoming hostility, negativity and selfishness. This statement stems from my own experience, as
well as interviews with more than one hundred business executives during the last ten years.
Right Livelihood
The practice of Right Livelihood (Samm-jva) is an important aspect of Vipassana meditation. It
can become the foundation for business management practice, upon which can be based traditional
management techniques of using statistical data such as of cash-flow projections, return on capital,
GNP, the turnover of profits, and so on. These parameters are useful if they are based on the concept
of Right Livelihood.
Briefly, the application of this concept means that income, whether of a business corporation or an
individual, should not only be ethical, but the consciousness of the individuals producing this income
should be reasonably clean, i.e., free from the negativities mentioned above. A mental climate free of
negativities automatically becomes pure and exhibits the characteristics of genuine love, respect, cooperation, compassion and equanimity. Wealth produced by a group consciousness of this nature not
only produces money, but also the mental health and happiness resulting from a stress-free mind.
Subconscious Mind
Without going into the details of Vipassana meditation, I will touch upon an important aspect of the
transformation of consciousness: the subconscious mind. Very little is known about this mind which is
filled with negativities which are counter-productive to wealth in its totality. While it is possible to
recognize and experience these negativities, it is not possible to empty the mind of these defilements
without a proper technique.
Most meditation techniques are unable to reach the subconscious mind, they are not colourless and
can therefore "taint" the mind which further complicates the situation. Vipassana bases every step on
"reality-as it is." Vipassana allows a meditator to experience moments of "no nutriment" to the mind.
This starts the process of "detoxifying" the mind of its impurities.
Industrial Sickness
A mind which does not meditate and develops impurity causes grave consequences. When the minds
of industry leaders are impure, the ramifications are pervasive and serious.
This phenomenon is exemplified by the classic example of the management failure at the Bombay
Textile Mills. Twenty years ago, it was a viable, profit-making unit; however, the greed for quick money
caused a financial tragedy. The incoming cash, which could have been used for modernizing the plant
and machinery, or for financing working capital, was syphoned out for the personal gain of the
directors. Their livelihood was not "right livelihood". The defilement of greed killed the best interests of
the directors and caused widespread misery to a large section of
Bombay's workforce and economic system.
Vipassana meditation is a surgical operation of the mind. When practised properly, the pace of
purification can be dramatically increased. The technique frees one's mind from greed. A healthy mind
is alert and capable of meeting the demands of a situation. It naturally comes out of addictions and
indulgences. The practice of Vipassana results in the diminishment of craving. A business conducted

with the base of such a mind would have resulted in the growth of the textile industry rather than
creating sick production units.
An analysis of the increasing industrial sickness and the failure of business management reveals a
pattern. In many cases, over-anxiety for export or expansion causes the working capital to be diverted
into the generation of fixed assets. The result is an acute shortage of working capital and excessive
borrowing-clearly dangerous avenues for business practice. With a mind made mature by meditation,
these kinds of desire-driven actions are checked by the calm and cool
temper of equanimity, which reduces the possibility of making such mistakes.

Pure Mind:
The Basis of Management
The Vipassana technique does not create by itself a new technology of management. It contributes to
the improvement of management by correcting the root of the problem-impurity of mind-so that a
business is continually nourished by the pure food of right thoughts and action. It is excessive craving
and greed which poison the minds of managers; this impurity is corrected by meditation.
Attitude towards Competition
Vipassana also changes one's attitude towards competitors. When a business cuts out a competitor,
there is a chain reaction: a vicious cycle starts. Many businesses have been ruined by this attitude.
Vipassana purifies the mind and fills it with wisdom which enables the practitioner to appreciate that
there is room for everyone to coexist. The purification resulting from Vipassana practice results, as it
were, in fertile soil where seeds of healthy business management are nurtured. The soil of healthy
minds brings forth management practices where the primary aim is to generate peace and happiness
in the society, with the secondary aim of generating money as a means for buying goods and services,
and attaining economic emancipation and a higher quality of life.
Case Study of Ananda Engineers
My company, Ananda Engineers Pvt. Ltd. (Bombay) has a turnover of five crores (over one million U.S.
dollars). All the directors, members of the senior staff and a majority of clerks and workmen have
undertaken Vipassana meditation. The way it was introduced was that first the managing director went
to a course, then other senior staff followed his example. Other people noticed changes at the top,
and they then wanted to try. Our experience has been that the group efficiency has increased, along
with profits and an accompanying improvement in mental health and interpersonal relations. There
may be larger companies with larger profits, but I have found that the happiness of the staff and
workers comes not only from money but from warm and compassionate treatment by the
management. This cordial treatment does not come about by any means except Vipassana. (This
statement comes from my own experience. A detailed project report is available upon request.)
Some highlights of the study are as follows:
Sixty percent of the employees have attended courses. About half of those have done more than one
Resultant changes in the organization have been a shift from authority rule to consensus decisions
taken at a lower level, from one-upmanship to team spirit and from indecisiveness and insecurity to
self motivation in the work-force. Productivity has improved by 20%.
I have had detailed discussions with more than a dozen business executives who are small-scale
entrepreneurs, after their Vipassana courses. These discussions have confirmed that, after a

Vipassana course, they are able to work 20% faster than before, and the quality of their work has the
improved value of being performed by a subtle mind. They report that qualities of greed, anger,
arrogance, and prejudice have decreased and there is less friction in dealing with staff members. Very
healthy and cordial interpersonal relations have resulted, and the wealth of their enterprises has
steadily increased as a result of these positive changes.

The Effect of Vipassana on the Work Environment - by S.S. Joshi

To study the effect of Vipassana on the work environment, we interviewed people who had attended a
ten-day Vipassana course.
A questionnaire was given to them. Their colleagues were also interviewed to find out their views
about the results of Vipassana.
In general, everyone experienced a positive change in the behaviour of Vipassana students and a
consequent improvement in the work environment. There was a new dimension of trust, commitment
and co-operation with others, and a remarkable rise in goodwill. There was a decrease in hatred or
strong dislike towards others, short-temperedness, mental fatigue, jealousy, negative feelings towards
others, and confrontation because of jealousy, ego, guilt-feelings, etc.
Now let us look at the interviews of Vipassana students in detail:
Mr. Balle, Manager (R&D) has been practising Vipassana for the last ten years. He said that his anger
and short-temperedness have greatly lessened and he has cooled down considerably. He thinks twice
or before answering now, and does not give harsh replies to either seniors or juniors. His subordinates
feel free to approach him and the atmosphere has become cordial both in the office and at home.
His trust in people has increased. He feels comfortable with all types of people. For example, while
others were having difficulty in dealing with one person in the factory, Mr. Balle was comfortable with
him and in due course they became friends.
Because Mr. Balle benefited from Vipassana, he recommended it to his friend, who was clever but
short-tempered. After the friend attended a Vipassana course his short-temperedness was reduced
remarkably-even his family members were surprised. Later his friend sent another two or three doctor
friends for a Vipassana course.
As Mr. Balle has become less angry and more trusting of his subordinates, the commitment of his
subordinates to work has increased. During work on a project, normally a direction of work is selected
and work is started accordingly. Previously, projects used to reach a lot of dead ends, with new lines of
action being chosen and work re-started. A lot of time was wasted. Now after learning Vipassana, Mr.
Balle chooses the direction of work in consultation with his colleagues so that the risk of selecting a
wrong direction is reduced and time is saved. The result is a direct increase in productivity, i.e., more
output in less time.
All Vipassana students and their colleagues agree that there has been a positive improvement in the
atmosphere of the workplace. Different reasons have been mentioned by them. For example, Mr.
Kulkarni (Executive) says that previously he had very high expectations of results from his
subordinates. If these expectations were not fulfilled then it gave rise to anger and tension. Now after
he has learnt Vipassana, he looks at the mistakes of subordinates objectively and gives guidance to
them to correct those mistakes. His concentration and peace of mind have increased and tension has
lessened, which has resulted in more work output each day.
Colleagues of a Vipassana student have reported that after a Vipassana course, he is more cooperative at work and less aggressive. Now, before replying to them, he thinks first and then takes
action or not, as appropriate. They say that are now more comfortable with him.

Mr. B. Sitharam (GM) attended his second ten-day course in January 1993. After his first course he
stopped using tobacco, paan and alcohol. He practises Vipassana every day for one hour. His wife
attended a ten-day course in November 1993.
Mr. N.P. Joshi (Assistant Manager) feels that after learning Vipassana he has become more polite and
more considerate towards others. His wife attended a course in January 1994. Her outlook towards life
has changed. Now his nine-year-old son is also planning to attend a course in May 1994.
Mr. P.J. Shah (Purchase Officer) practises Vipassana daily for one hour. He says that even if his mind is
upset, it becomes fresh and sharp after meditating. His short-temperedness has been reduced. His
working efficiency and decision making power have improved and he feels more confident.
Mr. Pathak, a Stores Officer, has practised Vipassana since July 1992. Before that, he used to sleep
during lunchtime; now it is not required since his mind is more fresh. He works more quickly and
therefore completes most of his work before the end of the day. As a result he can give attention to
other areas, like housekeeping. His subordinates report that Mr. Pathak has cooled down, and is less
angry and tense. His colleague, the Purchase Officer, focussed on the term, "reliability". He said that
the answers given by Mr. Pathak are more reliable. This shows that his work is more efficient and
A general observation of all employees is that those who are practising Vipassana are clearing
paperwork daily, with less pending work, showing that they have better concentration and work faster.
They have given up the habit of cigarette and tobacco smoking.
Increased trust and co-operativeness have strengthened the attitude of teamwork which is essential
for the success of the organization. If we widen this concept of co-operation with people and team
spirit, we can see that it will also greatly benefit the society at large.
In a nutshell, we can conclude confidently that Vipassana has a very positive effect on productivity
and the work environment.

Holistic Education and Vipassana - by Prof. P.L. Dhar

Education, said Albert Einstein, is that which remains when everything that is learnt in school is
forgotten. If we evaluate modern education by this definition, its chief outcomes can easily be
identified as aggressive competition, pride and envy. At its best, the modern educational system
imparts some professional knowledge and skills, but it lacks any cultivation of heart. The result is only
to make the students conceited materialists. Consequently, at an age when children should be
dreaming of beauty, greatness and perfection, they now dream about sensory titillation and wealth,
and spend time worrying about how to earn money [1]. No wonder that our society today is being
devoured by the twin devils of acquisitiveness and unabashed consumerism, with the resultant serious
social problems of corruption, strife and violence; and ecological problems such as environmental
pollution and the rapid depletion of resources which threaten the very survival of humankind on this
planet. Thinkers and philosophers of all hues [1-4], whether in India or abroad, agree that a complete
revamping of the educational system is a prerequisite for the solution to these serious maladies
besieging mankind. For, unless human beings become harmonized within themselves, through a
fundamental change in their animal instincts-which should be the most important purpose of
education-all changes in their outer circumstances will ultimately be overwhelmed by their instinctual,
animal brutality.

A Vision of Holistic Education

Education should be concerned with the totality of life and not with immediate responses to immediate
challenges [1]. Broadly speaking, four different but inter-related aspects of human life can generally
be recognized: viz., the physical, emotional, intellectual and spiritual. Holistic education should
cultivate all these aspects in full measure. For example, physical education should include not only the
performance of physical exercises to keep the body fit, but also the training to use the senses and
physical framework wisely.
Similarly, emotional education should emphasize the type of training of mind that develops the
positive human emotions of universal love, compassion, forbearance, humility, equanimity, etc., and
eradicates the baser instincts such as greed, envy, pride, aggressiveness, etc. In this way, one can
establish a healthy relationship with society.
Intellectual education should require not only the development of the ability to think, but also the
ability to act independently, rationally and logically on the basis of a deep understanding of the various
phenomena of nature.
Finally, spiritual education should cultivate a refinement of the mind, to manifest that elusive "fourth
dimension" of the human personality from which springs forth an intuitive understanding of the very
purpose of our existence, and a clarity of what ought to be done to achieve it.
It is quite clear that the modern educational system completely sidesteps the emotional and spiritual
aspects of the human personality, and caters only to physical and intellectual growth-and this, too,
only in a superficial manner. It is not as if the educationists and education planners have not been
aware of this deficiency, for as early as 1966, the Kothari Commission recognized the need for
inculcating social, moral and spiritual values through education [5]. But the way to achieve this in a
composite society like India, where the notions of caste, creed and religion are very strongly
entrenched, has defied a universally acceptable solution. There have, of course, been many attempts
to impart moral education indirectly through various means such as prayers, discussions and
contemplation sessions, etc. Even direct attempts have been made through meditation methods,
lectures and discourses in various institutions such as Christian missionary schools; Islamic schools;
Anglo-vedic schools; schools associated with the Ramakrishna Mission; ISKCON; Maharishi Mahesh
Yogi centres; the Krishnamurti Foundation; and the Saibaba Trust, etc. However, these approaches
have not been able to gain wide acceptance.
There exists in India and many other countries today, a scientific method of control and purification of
mind which, if properly integrated with the educational process, has the potential of becoming a
universally acceptable technique for nourishing the emotional and spiritual dimensions of human
personality. This technique, an ancient science of mind and matter, is called Vipassana meditation.
Following is a brief description of the technique and how it can be integrated into modern education.

Vipassana Meditation
Viewed from the perspective of holistic education, Vipassana meditation can be described as a
technique of purifying the mind of its baser instincts so that one begins to manifest the truly human
qualities of universal goodwill, kindness, sympathy, tolerance, humility, equanimity, etc., and
simultaneously gains an insight into the true nature and purpose of human existence. This is achieved
in a very scientific manner through a systematic cultivation of Right Mindfulness coupled with nonreactivity; that is to say, development of the habit of paying penetrating attention to whatever is
happening in our total organism-the body with its five senses and the mind which operates in and
through it-without any admixture of subjective judgments or reactions. The quality which purifies the
mind at the deepest level is the mental factor of objectivity, or equanimity, which develops from the
constant, thorough understanding of the impermanence of all components of the mind-body
phenomenon (ref. [8], p.258).
An important prerequisite for the systematic practice of Vipassana is scrupulous observance of five

basic moral precepts-viz., abstention from killing, stealing, false speech, sexual misconduct, and
intoxicants-since any willful violation of these precepts causes violent mental agitation which makes it
impossible to observe the mind objectively. Of course, Vipassana practice also helps one to gain the
mental strength needed to observe the moral precepts in day-to-day life. While the complete details of
this systematic practice are best learnt in a meditation camp under the careful guidance of a teacher,
some salient features of the technique and its theoretical basis are explained here.
The foundation stone in the cultivation of Right Mindfulness (or Awareness) consists of paying
attention to the body (ref. 8, pp. 254-259]. The practice of systematic self-observation begins by
focussing attention on the respiration (ref. 9, p.5), the breath coming in and going out of the body.
This practice-called Anapana-is an exercise in cultivation of right awareness, not regulation or control
of the breath (such as pranayama or other breathing exercises). There is just a silent "bare
observation" of the natural flow of respiration, with a firm and steady attention free from any strain.
One observes the length of the breath, short or long. To aid the development of concentration, the
student is advised to focus the attention on finer details, such as which nostril the breath is coming in
and going out, or where the breath is touching in the area around the nostrils.
The whole exercise is one of observing the reality as it is, without any preferences or reactions. It is
quite natural that in the beginning it will not be possible to focus the attention continuously on the
breath, even for a minute or two. The habitual tendency of the mind to wander away from the
assigned task comes to the fore very quickly, allowing the student to experience for him or herself the
turbulent nature of the mind. The student learns to observe this fact itself dispassionately- without
feeling dejected about the repeated "running away" of the mind-and once again focuses one's
attention on the breath.
With the systematic practice of Anapana for a few days, the concentration increases, and a natural
calming and equalizing of the breath takes place. As the breath is very intimately related to the mind,
this leads simultaneously to a tranquilizing of the mind-in fact, of the entire life-rhythm [6]. The mind
also becomes sharp enough to observe subtler realities of the body-mind complex, e.g., the sensations
occurring in the area around the nostrils where attention is focused during the practice of mindfulness
of breathing.
This leads us to the next step in the cultivation of Right Mindfulness, viz., awareness of the bodily
sensations (ref. 9, p.21). The object of meditation now is body sensation. Sensations occur on the
body, but they are felt by the mind. When one is investigating the internal experience of one's
sensations, one is actually observing the interaction of mind and matter (Vedana-samosarana sabbe
dhamma: Everything that arises in the mind is accompanied by sensation) (ref. 8, p. 253). Moreover,
sensations (vedana) provide the crucial link between the impact (phassa) upon the six sense doors
and the resultant reaction of craving and aversion (tanha) which is the root cause of all suffering [7;
8, p.255]. This profound discovery is, in fact, one of the most fundamental aspects of the teaching of
the master scientist of mind and matter, Gotama Buddha.
The practice of Vipassana consists of "feeling" the sensations throughout the body without any
reaction or evaluation whatsoever, thus developing equanimity at a very deep level. This is of course
more easily said than done, because our subconscious mind, which is constantly "feeling" the body
sensations, has the stubborn, recalcitrant habit of reacting to these sensations in a particular manner.
It habitually reacts to pleasant sensations with craving and to unpleasant sensations with aversion,
thus strengthening the mind's conditioned tendency to run after sensory pleasure and to run away
from pain.
The exercise of awareness and equanimity in the face of the entire spectrum of sensations acts to
gently break this habit pattern. One repeatedly observes the sensations as they actually are:
constantly changing-arising, staying for some time, fading away, and giving rise to other sensations.
Through this repeated practice, the habit of reaction is replaced by an experience of the truth of
anicca or impermanence. The student is trained to focus one's attention on the changeful nature of the
sensations, thereby gradually correcting the conditioned habit of evaluating them as pleasant or
unpleasant. This scientific method of observing the sensations as they really are-without any

evaluation based on past conditioning-is what is described by the word vipassana. Vipassana, a Pali
word, literally means "to see things as they really are"-in their true nature, their true characteristic of
impermanence (anicca).
One can thus gradually train the mind to observe the bodily sensations in an objective manner-without
any notion of their being "my sensations"-in the same way as one would dispassionately observe the
waves arising and disappearing in the sea. With the practice of this objective observation, the attitude
of "enjoyership"-one of the chief manifestations of ego-is thus enfeebled.
The attitude of remaining equanimous towards all internal phenomena arising from the interaction of
mind and body is simultaneously strengthened, as the student repeatedly observes the fact of the
evanescent nature (anicca) of the mind-body process.
The systematic practice of mindfulness of sensations integrates within itself other important aspects of
the cultivation of Right Mindfulness, viz., the mindfulness of the state of mind and the contents of the
thought at any given moment (ref. [9], p.25). As the alertness and objectiveness of the meditator
increase (by the continual practice of non-reactive observation of sensations), he or she can quickly
become aware of the mental reactions which keep arising from time to time. As an adjunct to the main
practice of mindfulness of body sensations, a student practises from time to time the bare registering
of one's state of mind. One observes the various mental states without self-justification or selfcondemnation. This practice reveals the changing nature of the mental states, and thereby
strengthens the meditator's conviction about the anicca of all body-mind phenomena.
The most significant consequence of Vipassana practice is that it gives the mind a natural slant
towards the goal of full enlightenment, the complete liberation from all bondages. Simultaneously, one
develops the steadfast confidence that all hindrances on the Path can be overcome.

Role of Vipassana in Education

We can now understand how Vipassana can fill that vital gap in modern education-viz., the training of
mind, leading to a balanced, harmonious and purposeful life. Vipassana meditation imparts a way to
observe all the phenomena of this sensory world objectively and impersonally under the penetrating
gaze of an equanimous mind. The multifold benefits which accrue from this practice are being
discussed at length in this seminar and have formed the basis for research conducted by the
Vipassana Research Institute (Igatpuri, India) in many areas of human activity. Here, only those
aspects related to the field of education are being discussed.
The attitude of "bare attention" (bestowed by a mind at once aware and non-reactive) slows down the
transition from thought to action, allowing the practitioner more time-those crucial few momentsneeded to come to a mature decision. The tendency of the base, animal instincts to overpower the
faculty of human reason can thus be effectively checked, leading to a gradual reduction in negative
traits such as rashness, intolerance, intemperance and aggressive behaviour which characterize
modern youth. This emotional education should naturally lead to a marked improvement in the
student-teacher relationship, which has been constantly deteriorating over the years due to the
corroding influence of a materialistic world view coupled with the negative traits mentioned above.
On the positive side, this training of non-reactive observation of facts, coupled with the insight of
anicca enhances one's ability to face the vicissitudes of life squarely and equanimously without taking
recourse to such escapist alternatives as smoking, alcohol and drugs, which have become the bane of
modern society. This attitude of equanimity also reduces the obsessive preoccupation with indulgence
in unending materialistic desires, thereby allowing space for the manifestation of the so-called "higher
needs"-the self-actualization needs of meaningfulness, justice, truthfulness, service, love, compassion,
etc., which modern psychology recognizes as essential components of basic human needs [10]. Recent
research has shown that people able to manifest these "higher needs" are generally much more
creative and innovative, because self-actualization needs provide "a more durable fuel for creativity"
than the drive for sensual gratification [11].

The observation of mental contents is also a powerful tool of self-education because it reveals to the
meditator a very clear picture of his weak points and strong points without doing damage to his selfesteem. The habitual attitude of hurriedly glossing over one's weaknesses, or blowing one's strengths
out of proportion, is thus checked. One gradually gains the inner strength needed to overcome one's
weaknesses without a need to exercise a violent exertion of will or forceful repression, both of which
are harmful in the long run. This candid self-examination promotes honesty towards oneself, increases
one's tolerance of others' faults, assists in the development of humility and compassion, and reduces
The attitude of Right Awareness coupled with equanimity closely corresponds to the disposition of the
true scientist and scholar, which is characterized by clear definition of the subject, unprejudiced
receptivity for the facts, exclusion of the subjective factor in judgment, and deferring judgment until a
careful examination of the facts has been made (ref. [6], p.39). This practice should therefore be of
great help in augmenting the scientific temper.
Vipassana meditation reinforces the scientific outlook in another much more direct way. Every
meditator, after some length of practice of mindfulness of sensations, reaches a state where he
experiences the whole body as a mass of vibrations. This experience is in line with the quantumrelativistic description of matter [12]. This direct experience provides much more clarity about the
nature of matter than the scores of mathematical formulae produced by classroom descriptions.
Another important benefit of the systematic practice-especially of mindfulness of breath, which is of
crucial significance in education-is improvement in one's ability to concentrate on a task. As explained
earlier, the essence of the practice is to train the mind to keep the attention continuously on an object
(viz., the breath), and to minimize the drifting of the mind into futile daydreams, which are the chief
obstacle to concentration. The training of observing the mental states also comes in handy. Once such
daydreams have arisen (whether during meditation or during normal activity), if one briefly makes
these daydreams themselves an object of close observation, their power of distraction is drastically
curtailed and they get quickly dispersed. This results in a quick retrieval of concentration.
The attitude of impersonal non-reactive observation is of profound value in the ultimate deliverance of
the mind from all bondages, which is the true purpose of spiritual education. To quote Venerable
Nyanponika Thera (ref. [6], p.43): "The inner distance from things...as obtained temporarily and
partially by bare attention, shows us, by our own experience, the possibility of winning perfect
detachment and the happiness resulting from it. It bestows upon us the confidence that such
temporary setting aside may well become one day a complete stepping out of this world of suffering.
It gives a kind of foretaste, or at least an idea, of the highest liberty, the 'holiness during lifetime' that
has been alluded to by the words 'In the world but not of the world.' "
To achieve this objective, the principal requirement is to develop an insight into the basic
characteristics of life. Impermanence (anicca) is the fundamental characteristic with which a Vipassana
student is continually confronted. As this experience becomes ingrained, realization of the other
characteristics-viz., of suffering (dukkha) and egolessness (anatta)-automatically develops, leading
one to a clear understanding of the purpose of life and the way to achieve it-the very acme of spiritual

Concluding Remarks
It should be evident from the preceding brief description that Vipassana meditation is a purely
scientific technique, a universal culture of mind, which does not subscribe to any sectarian beliefs,
dogmas or rituals. It should be universally acceptable, therefore, as an integral part of education. Its
benefits have been corroborated by thousands of practitioners-both young and old- belonging to
diverse castes, creeds, countries and religious beliefs. Vivekananda's dream of evolving a "manmaking education" [2] could be fulfilled by the integration of Vipassana into modern education. It is

high time that an action plan in the field of education be drawn, at least on an experimental scale, to
scientifically validate the efficacy of Vipassana over an extended period.

Some of the crucial issues which need to be addressed include:

1. How to motivate the students, teachers and management of schools and colleges to introduce
Anapana and Vipassana, and reduce resistance from unwilling students and teachers?
2. The extent of training needed before authorizing educational staff members to teach meditation in
schools and colleges.
3. The format and minimum duration of in-house camps organized to initiate young students to
Anapana meditation, keeping in view the practical constraints (especially of overnight stay).
4. How to maintain continuity of practice within the tight schedule of schools and colleges?
5. Should there be a formal course on meditation in the curricula of schools and colleges?
6. How to assess the beneficial influence of Vipassana on teachers, students and the teaching-learning
7. How to integrate Vipassana with the student counselling services in the schools and colleges?
A properly thought out action plan if sincerely implemented should ultimately pave the way for the
formation of institutions which can impart truly holistic education. Such institutions would make a
crucial contribution to developing wholesome individuals and a harmonious society.

Thanks are due to Dr. Kishore Chandiramani for reading an early draft of the paper and making
valuable suggestions.
1. "Krishnamurti on Education," Krishnamurti Foundation, 1992.
2. "Swami Vivekananda on Education," compiled by T.S. Avinashilingam, Sri Ramakrishna Mission
Vidyalaya, Coimbatore, 1993.
3. "A New Education," All India Magazine, Sri Aurobindo Society, Oct. 1990; and On Education,
All India Magazine, Sri Aurobindo Society, Nov. 1990.
4. P.L. Dhar and R.R. Gaur: "Appropriate Engineering Education," paper presented at National
Workshop on Technology Assessment, a Futuristic Viewpoint, IIT, Delhi, 1988.
5. Report of Education Commission (1964-66): Education and National Development, Ministry of
Education, Govt. of India, 1966.
6. Venerable Nyanaponika Thera: "The Heart of Buddhist Meditation," Rider, London 1962.
7. Amadeo Sole-Leris: "Tranquillity and Insight," Shambala, Boston 1986.
8. Sayagyi U Ba Khin Journal, Vipassana Research Institute, Igatpuri, India, 1991.
9. Mahasatipatthana Suttam, Vipassana Research Publications, Igatpuri, India, 1993.
10. A. Maslow: "Motivation and Personality," New York; Harper Press, 1954.
11. Pradeep N. Khandwala, "Fourth Eye: Excellence Through Creativity;" A.H. Wheeler and
Co., Allahabad, 1984.
12. P.L. Dhar and R.R. Gaur: "Science and Humanism-Towards a Unified World View," Commonwealth
Publishers, New Delhi, 1992.

Vipassana Meditation and Drug Addiction --- Gerhard Scholz

Gerhard Scholz

A Historical Review:
Drug abuse has become a widespread international problem, although the substances abused and the
abuse pattern may differ from country to country.
The multiplicity of phenomena generally known collectively as addictive behaviour have a long and rich
social history. The field that has developed as a result of the study of these phenomena is of more
recent vintage.
There is no single agreed definition of drug addiction in modern scientific or medical literature. A fairly
widespread statement was the following definition by the World Health Organisation's 1957 Expert
Committee on Addiction-Producing Drugs1. "Drug addiction is a state of periodic or chronic
intoxication produced by repeated consumption of a drug (natural or synthetic). Its characteristics
1) an overpowering desire or need (compulsion) to continue taking the drug and to obtain it by any
2) a tendency to increase the dose.
3) a psychic (psychological) and generally a physical dependence on the effects of the drugs.
4) detrimental effect on the individual and society."
This is a definition allowing for both psychological and physiological addiction, with the increasingly
compulsive character of the irresistible urge as its central characteristic.
The question of whether the term "addiction" should be reserved for cases of physiological
dependence, or if it should also include psychological addiction, was always very problematic. Another
historically controversial issue is the use of the word "craving." According to the understanding of
Alcoholics Anonymous: "Addicts are not drinking to escape, they are drinking to overcome a craving
beyond their mental control." They cannot start drinking without developing the phenomenon of
craving2. Others rejected the use of the term "craving" because of its vagueness3.
A similar source of disagreement was the question of what addiction does to the addict. Some argued
that opiate addiction at least has little or no effect on the personality4. Others suggested that
addiction of any variety brings about a total transformation of the personality5. What is missing in
such dualistic addiction concepts is the dynamic between these two fields of mind and matter. Unless
we know about this driving force, the underlying mechanism, how one becomes an addict, one cannot
really come out of addiction. If we are not careful in the field of addiction research and rehabilitation
we just exchange one prison for another and the wonder of freedom gets lost.
Nowadays, in the world of science and medicine, theories about the nature of addiction, and what
should be done about it, have changed dramatically. Many researchers now agree that addiction,
whether to narcotics, alcohol, heroin, amphetamines or any other chemical substance, is one single
disease. According to typical life stories of drug addicts gathered during my research work, addicts
switch drugs when the drug of their choice is not available, and display addictive behaviour even with
drugs thought to be non-addictive (marijuana, diet pills etc.). Clearly this means that for the
understanding of addiction, the chemical is not the entire problem, it is the individuals reaction to it,
and this dynamic between the two fields that causes the difficulty.

Case-Study Related Methodological Remarks

During the last 20 years, the analysis of life histories, formerly used in the famous Chicago School,

has again become acceptable to modern social scientists, emphasising what can be learned from
individual life stories. In general, historical life case studies reveal the causes and treatment of a social
problem. This information cannot be arrived at by more formal techniques, which must depend heavily
upon external data. Establishing a relationship in which the experience of a drug addiction is described
from the point of view of the subject, the analyst attempts to enter the life experience of the subject
and then, by engaging the subject in a critical dialogue concerning these experiences, to penetrate the
empirical data and end up with a "grounded theory"6.
To illustrate, here is a short unedited extract from a life story interview with an ex-addict
from Australia.
Joe: "...addiction, basically means escapism, escape from reality...you use insanity...the human
insanity, escapism. With a drug addict....has used the vehicle of drugs to escape. And it is a very, very
powerful vehicle...much more powerful than just the unaided fantasy...for the human being they get
into dreams, workaholism, or TV. The drug motivation, the drug use, is much more powerful than
anything else...when I use it, and that's what...because it's so powerful, it takes the escapism to a
life-threatening degree. Whereas other motivators of living for money, power, prestige or...doesn't
reach a life-threatening...doesn't threaten life."
This story shows the power of people to articulate their own problems, using the voice of the world in
which they live. The scientist's task is essentially one of reconstructing the inherent structuring logic,
which is sometimes no more than formalising and commenting on the wisdom that is already there.
Joe's story indicates to the scientist the basic topics which have to be explained and penetrated
(bearing in mind that this is only a small part of a long interview).
It would be beyond the scope of this article to do the reconstruction in a controlled text-analytical way.
We will just look at certain essential points which are raised by the short excerpt. The first is that
addiction is itself addictive. People who are predisposed to addictive behaviour are inexorably drawn
into that downward spiral of irrational behaviour. (In the life story of Joe it wasn't important which
drug he had taken. The addiction was progressive and fatal). The second point is that there are
differences as regards content in substance abuse. Ordinary substance abuse is an escape from
reality, while drug abuse has a life-threatening element. There is a wide range of abuse, the main
difference being that the more powerful the drug, the faster the deeper trouble occurs.
Thus this small extract shows that the problem of drug addiction is always dialectical: constituting the
interaction between a general (addiction) and a specific (the addiction to drugs).

Summary of Results
Certainly, a drug is a chemical compound which, taken into the body, changes the body's metabolism.
But obviously not everyone who takes drugs is an addict. The so called classical model of addiction is
certainly insufficient. This model emphasised the inherent overpowering nature of the drug per se,
stating that no person could resist the pull of the drugs: the one-shot-and-you-are-gone-syndrome.
After the 1940's (especially in the USA) this biological disease concept was revised. The new disease
model differed in the location of the source of the addiction. The old addiction-in-the-drug model
considered the source of addiction as being in the drug itself. The new model considered the source of
addiction as being inherent in a minority of people who were susceptible to addiction to drugs because
of (unknown) factors in their personality.
A third position, developed following the explosive drug use in the 1960's, is a proposed revision
synthesising the available evidence of the two disease concepts. There, it is stated that addiction is
not an inherent characteristic of drugs or people, but of a person's response to a particular type of
experience. The main problem with most past and continuing research on addiction, is that it locates
the source of addiction in the wrong place. Addiction does not come from a drug; it begins with the
person, his or her situation and that person's search for a given experience7.

This is a much broader and more unified understanding of addiction: addiction as a very personal,
subjective response to a given experience; a result of behaviour, not necessarily inherent in any
person or substance. But the main question we still have to solve is this: what exactly is the
mechanism causing the tendency to increase the dose, resulting in repeated consumption of drugs?
Initially, taking the drug is a pleasant experience, giving one the feeling of being relieved from anxiety,
when in actual fact those things in life which cause anxiety grow more severe. Drugs lessen the
person's ability to cope with life's difficulties. It is here that the vicious circle of drug addiction starts,
with the dialectic of relief and slavery as its driving force. This is certainly more complex than mere
physical dependence.
The key to diagnosis of addictive disease is in the observation that the patient persists in using drugs
in spite of the consequences. It also means that taking away the drug would not solve the problem of
drug addiction.

Typical Progression in the Drug Life of an Addict

The reconstruction of drug addicts' life stories gives the following picture:
1) Addiction starts as a pleasant experience, chasing pleasant feelings and running away from the
unpleasant. It becomes an addiction when the experience is no longer pleasant, but the person
continues to risk everything by compulsively attempting to repeat and even intensify the pleasant
experience previously produced by drugs.
2) Addiction becomes a life style: predictable, habitual, and repetitive. Drug-addicted people doubt
both their ability to set themselves realistic goals and their ability to bring about the results they want.
Because they do not believe their efforts will be rewarded, they give up trying. For the addict, the
reward becomes the drug of his or her choice.
3) Because of the life-style maintained by a drug addict (using mostly illegal and very expensive
drugs) his or her behaviour starts to infringe on the rest of society (criminal activities, prostitution,
4) These kinds of activities go against the set of values with which the addict has been raised. This
produces strong feelings of guilt and self-hate associated with the addiction which cause the addict to
rely more heavily on his or her drug. The vicious circle keeps rolling.
To sum up, addiction means an over-dependency which has become habitual, obsessive and
compulsive, governing in its totality all the different dimensions of an individual's life-physical,
emotional, social and mental. This means that one-dimensional treatment strategies are not adequate,
whether they are individually oriented or based on social psychological/socialisation theories.
The recovery from addiction has to be based on this multi-dimensional system. Hence, one has to
solve three problems:
1) As a result of the almost complete destruction of personality, a fundamental motivation is needed.
Counselling can create a base so that drug addicts know there is something worthwhile to go back to.
The drug addict is given the chance to become motivated to stop his or her over-dependency on
2) The need to treat drug addiction at its deepest level: to eradicate the indicators of addiction
compulsion, loss of control and continued use in spite of adverse consequences. In other words, to
take out the deeply rooted mental cause.
3) The provision of a support system for the drug addict after initial intensive residential treatment,
providing vitally important after-care during the process of adjustment back into society.

To gain freedom from addiction, one has to eliminate its deeply rooted cause. This work of removing
the cause has to proceed in a very methodical way: it cannot be accomplished simply by changing
outer circumstances or by an act of will; by simply wanting the addiction to go away. The work must
be guided by investigation; one has to find out what the defilements (inner drives) depend upon and
then see if it lies within one's power to remove the cause. This is done by Vipassana meditation.

Vipassana Meditation
Initially, one may start using drugs for a number of reasons, but eventually drug use becomes a
reaction to the uncomfortable body sensations which result from the constant interconnection between
mind and body, and the thoughts which accompany these interactions. One does not get addicted to
anything outside, or to some kind of inherent quality of the drug itself; it just looks like this. People
get addicted to their own vibrations of the body. By taking a drug, a certain kind of bio-chemical
process starts in the body and one feels a type of vibration, which one starts liking. One develops a
craving for it, then a habit, and finally gets addicted to the vibration. Addiction is therefore a
continuum: one wants to enjoy that vibration again and again. This is what happens in all types of
addiction. People get addicted to so many things, not only to drugs and alcohol. There, the type of
created vibration is considered by one's own judgement to be pleasant. But all addictions are
addictions to vibrations, to the sensations.
The world of physics has already begun to recognise that the objective and subjective cannot be
separated. Recent scientific works8 support this important point; that any experience that arises in our
consciousness is a subjective experience, not part of an independent external world. Although we
experience the outside world as a series of sensory objects, what actually comes to our senses is
energy in the form of vibrations of different frequencies. The unconscious mind, which is still beyond
the understanding of modern sciences, is in constant contact with these energy schemes, often simply
described in modern physics as heaps of statistical probabilities. These vibrations carry no subjective
information, they just carry objective value. They trigger neural codes, which are transformed by the
brain and its judgements into a model of an external world. This model is given a subjective value and
projected outwards to form the subjective world. Unfortunately, we call this mixture of subjective and
objective components the objective world. From the fact that many of us see a similar external world,
we can only deduce that we have similar models. The similarity of models does not necessarily imply
the uniformity of the world that gives rise to those models.
Addiction means addiction to a certain type of vibration that has been created by the drug use and the
subsequent chemical processes in the body. The addiction has gone to the deepest level of the mind,
and there is every likelihood of it becoming rooted in the deep unconscious. As Vipassana reaches the
unconscious level of the mind by working with the sensations, it can remove the roots of addiction.
The deepest level of the mind is constantly in contact with the bodily sensations. As we develop
awareness of the sensations and observe them with equanimity, the addiction at the subconscious
level is automatically removed.
This interrelation of mind and matter is the key to Vipassana meditation, and it was of crucial
significance in the teaching of the Buddha. "Whatever arises in the mind is accompanied by sensation"
(Anguttara Nikaya 8, Mulaka Sutta). Therefore observation of sensations offers a means to examine
the totality of one's being, physical as well as mental. In the Satipatthana Sutta, the Discourse on the
Establishing of Awareness, the Buddha presented the practical method of Vipassana meditation, for
purifying the mind. Here, the importance of sensation (Pali: vedana) is stressed. Other references
about the key role of sensations are found in: Brahmajala Sutta, Pathama Akasa Sutta, Pathama
Gelanna Sutta, Indriya Bhavana Sutta, Dighanakha Sutta, Pahana Sutta, Maha-Salayatanika Sutta,
Apana Sutta9.
When an addict understands that observing oneself at the level of sensation is the key to coming out
of addiction, and works on sensation with Vipassana meditation, he or she will begin to recover. But
Vipassana meditation is not some kind of magic or miracle. Progress requires a strong will to come out

of addiction, and also a strong will to work towards this goal by observing oneself at the level of
sensations. This is the point at which professional counselling will play an important role, as has been
observed in one of the most successful drug rehabilitation centres in Australia. Cyrenian House
operates with counselling, crisis intervention, the integrated philosophy of Narcotics Anonymous, and
the first part of a ten day Vipassana meditation course called Anapana meditation, which means
observing incoming and outgoing breath.
The role of counselling is: to stabilise the addict, to give intellectual understanding, and to motivate
the person to try to stay clean after the residential programme. They are then encouraged to join a
Vipassana course in order to work hard on the technique. However, if there is no motivation to come
out of addiction and to work properly according to the instructions, Vipassana will not give proper
results. This motivation enables the addict to work to eradicate the mental defilements of addiction
and to face the difficulties which are bound to crop up during a Vipassana course.
When a person abstains from taking drugs, he or she very soon feels uncomfortable. Unpleasant
feelings/sensations come to the surface, and the mind begins to react to them. Using Vipassana
meditation to eradicate the sources of compulsive behaviour, one passes through different stages with
these sensations:
1) The sensations are kept completely in the unconscious. This means that as soon as there is the
slightest hint that some of the poison and pain will reach the conscious mind, the addict immediately
gives in to his addiction, assuming that this will prevent the pain.
2) With the practice of Vipassana the operation starts. The suppressed feelings, along with the
unpleasant sensations, start to rise out of the unconscious mind. This is the most difficult part for drug
addicts, as the habit of not facing the unpleasant, deeper unconscious reality is their weakest point.
3) Gradually the mind becomes more equanimous. By observing the reality within, one first discovers
that these sensations can be accepted and second, that the conditioning that distorts the perception of
these sensations can be eliminated step by step, with pure awareness and wisdom becoming
As ignorance disappears, the addict looks at reality as it is. The underlying tendencies of craving and
aversion get eradicated, and the drug addict slowly emerges from addiction.

Outlook: What Can be Offered?

It was found during my stay at the Vipassana International Academy, that many addicts who try to
pass through ten day Vipassana courses are not able to overcome the problems in step two; facing the
suppressed feelings and unpleasant sensations that arise out of the unconscious mind. As a result of
this, many leave the camp soon after the start of the course, unable to grasp the depth of the
technique. This demonstrates that drug rehabilitation activities such as counselling, group therapies,
role modelling, after-care etc. cannot be replaced by Vipassana meditation nor Vipassana replaced by
drug rehabilitation activities.
Elsewhere, different groups follow a variety of different concepts (Fair Oaks and Daytop, just to name
the most successful ones in the U.S.A.). Some use brainwashing, others try to divert the mind; but
what most of them seek to trigger is a huge emotional displacement. All these concepts try to
accomplish some kind of spiritual transformation to help the addict recover10.
A major problem with drug addiction is that even with one episode of drug use, a Pandora's box of
dormant memories can get unlocked. The various drugs are just like pressure points. Touch one and
you will set the entire continuum of latent drug memories vibrating like a great spider's web. It is this
process of recapturing and reliving that makes people say: "Once you are an addict you are always an
addict." Now, with the impact of Vipassana meditation we no longer have to agree with this
statement; relapse need no longer be considered as a biological imperative. Yet we have to be aware

that: "Once you are an addict you are still at risk of relapse." It is at this point that ordinary therapies
and stabilising methods in the field of drug rehabilitation have their natural limitations and Vipassana
meditation starts playing its unique role; eradicating the defilements of the deep unconscious mind. It
is this scientific, methodically controlled process of Vipassana meditation, purifying the unconscious
mind, and demystifying any kind of mysterious spiritual transformation, that fuels the drive away from
relapse, fighting and breaking the addiction pattern at the root level.
And it works. The only thing that has to be done is: to prepare the motivational ground for passing
through the Vipassana operation by counselling and by teaching Anapana meditation to addicts
already in rehabilitation clinics. After the Vipassana course, the power of the peer group, family
treatment, the outpatient programme and general social integration have to be combined with the
depth of the meditation experience and its applied practice in daily life. Those who really want to come
out of drug addiction can succeed, for their own emancipation and for the benefit of others.

1. World Health Organisation, Expert Committee on Addiction Producing Drugs.(WHO Tech. Rep. Ser.,
116) Geneva, 1957.
2. See: Silkworth W.D. The doctor's opinion, page 28. In: Alcoholics Anonymous; 2nd rev. ed. New
York; Alcoholics Anonymous; 1955.
3. See: Jellinek E.M. The disease concept of alcoholism. Highland Park, N.J.Hillhouse; 1960.
4. See: Duster T. the legalization of morality; laws, drugs and moral judgement. New York; Free Press.
Lindesmith. A.R. Addiction and opiates. Chicago; Aldine, 1968.
5. Wexberg L.E. Alcoholism as sickness. Quart. J Stud. Alc. 12: 217-230. 1951.
6. Life history method, see: Shaw, Clifford the Jack-Roller: a delinquent boy's own story, page 1819, Chicago 1969. Bertaux, Daniel, A very different picture-From the life practice. History approach to
the transformation of social science. Paper presented to the ninth World Congress of Sociology, Ad Hoc
group on the Life History Approach, Uppsala, Sweden, 1978.
7. Pele S. Redefining Addiction. The meaning of addiction in our Lives. J Psychedelic Drugs, Vol.2,
1979, p.289-297.
8. Like: Peter Fenwick and David Lorimer in: New Scientist, August 1989.
9. See: The Art of Living, William Hart, 1987, Appendix.
10. See: Proceedings of 11th World Conference of Therapeutic Communities, February 2126,1988. Bangkok, Thailand.

The Cyrenian House Programme

Richard Hammersley & John Cregan
Cyrenian House is one of the leading drug rehabilitation centres in Western Australia and is the only
one that is drug free. It was founded in 1981 by Richard Hammersley and has treated over 600
addicts on an inpatient basis and over 400 on an outpatient basis. The therapeutic programme
consists of:
1) Individual counselling
2) Group therapy

3) Promotion of physical and mental well being through yoga, relaxation, meditation, sport and drama
4) Attendance at Narcotics Anonymous meetings
5) Participation in arts and crafts projects and household work programmes.
Cyrenian House helps addicts not only to free themselves of drug use but also to reintegrate into
society by finding employment, education opportunities, accommodation, etc. It is one of an umbrella
group of organisations operating under the aegis of the Western Australia Council on Addictions. The
Council itself is directed by Vipassana meditators, and for three years it has made time available for
addicts undergoing treatment, and for staff to attend Vipassana courses. At present 80% of the staff
have taken at least one ten-day course. The results are encouraging among the addicts who have
taken Vipassana courses in the final part of their rehabilitation programme.
Vipassana benefits recovering addicts both directly through their participation in meditation courses,
and indirectly as well. Nearly all the counsellors at Cyrenian House are ex-addicts who have passed
through its programme themselves. Once they are firmly established in the Dhamma, they provide
excellent role models for recovering addicts, inspiring them through such virtues as honesty and
compassion, acquired and cultivated by the practice of Vipassana.
Cyrenian House treats addiction as a family illness and provides support for members of the addict's
family, particularly through the Narcotics Anonymous programme.
Using drugs is a way of suppressing reality, whatever the reality may be; a difficult financial situation,
an unhappy relationship, or simply uncomfortable bodily sensations. This suppression leaves a mark
on the mind. Vipassana meditation is the only technique we know that removes these deep mental
impressions totally. Of course over a long period of time other methods may be helpful, such as giving
positive reinforcement to the conscious mind; in fact, to a large extent the Cyrenian House
programme works in this way. But the speed with which Vipassana works means that addicts can
virtually clear their minds and start again free of the conditioning of this terrible period of their lives.
Drug addiction is an addiction to bodily sensations. Someone may start taking drugs for any number
of reasons, but eventually it is the dreadful sensations and their accompanying thoughts that drive a
true addict to continue using drugs. The addict becomes caught in the web of craving and aversion. By
fostering equanimity toward sensations and thoughts, Vipassana opens a way out of this web.
An important part of the rehabilitation process at Cyrenian House is the Narcotics Anonymous
programme, based on the tried and tested methods of Alcoholics Anonymous. This programme
encourages self-evolvement through self-awareness and understanding. Addicts learn to accept
themselves and others as they are, to bring honesty into their everyday lives. As with Vipassana, the
understanding of impermanence is of central importance to the Narcotics Anonymous programme.
Addicts base their recovery on the understanding that things are changing and that life is manageable
by taking it one day at a time. Vipassana reinforces this approach by showing how to take life one
moment at a time.
During their stay at Cyrenian House, addicts realise that they and no one else are responsible for their
recovery. This realisation plus the observation of successful role models (former addicts who have
learned Vipassana) provide the impetus to undertake a ten-day course.
Confidence building is an essential part of the programme, from detoxification through sharing
household duties and the halfway house experience.
Simply having completed a Vipassana course is itself a great boost to the confidence and self-esteem
of an addict. Still more importantly, the technique fosters self-dependence and inner strength. By
continuing the practice, the addict develops these qualities to achieve positive results.

Vipassana shows the addict that there are alternatives to using drugs, by providing the example of the
peace and tranquillity that is attainable within oneself through meditation. A course thus gives an
understanding of harmony that is experiential rather than merely intellectual.
When people have used drugs for long periods of time, they become numb to feelings. When they stop
using drugs, it is important for them to have time to experience and identify feelings, and to accept
the feeling of isolation and low self-esteem that is common among addicts. To attend a Vipassana
course when one has just stopped using drugs is to do a course as an addict, with the values and
outlook of an addict. To do a course after a period of sobriety, having learned to accept oneself, is to
do a course honestly as a human being. For this reason we believe that a Vipassana course is a perfect
conclusion to the Cyrenian House programme.
The continuing practice of Vipassana assists in times of stress which could have led to a relapse in the
Addiction goes to the deepest level of the mind, and if it is not to recur it must be removed by the
roots. The deepest level of the mind is constantly in touch with bodily sensations. Through Vipassana
one can learn to observe these sensations with equanimity, and by doing so eradicate addiction from
the depths of the mind.
From numerous examples it appears to us that after undergoing a Vipassana course, an addict shows
dramatic behavioural improvement, far more so than an average person with no dependencies.
Recovered addicts who have passed through the Cyrenian House programme and a Vipassana course
show exceptional willingness to help other addicts.

The Cyrenian House Programme --- Richard Hammersley & John Cregan
Richard Hammersley & John Cregan

Cyrenian House is one of the leading drug rehabilitation centres in Western Australia and is the only
one that is drug free. It was founded in 1981 by Richard Hammersley and has treated over 600
addicts on an inpatient basis and over 400 on an outpatient basis. The therapeutic programme
consists of:
1) Individual counselling
2) Group therapy
3) Promotion of physical and mental well being through yoga, relaxation, meditation, sport and drama
4) Attendance at Narcotics Anonymous meetings
5) Participation in arts and crafts projects and household work programmes.
Cyrenian House helps addicts not only to free themselves of drug use but also to reintegrate into
society by finding employment, education opportunities, accommodation, etc. It is one of an umbrella
group of organisations operating under the aegis of the Western Australia Council on Addictions. The
Council itself is directed by Vipassana meditators, and for three years it has made time available for
addicts undergoing treatment, and for staff to attend Vipassana courses. At present 80% of the staff
have taken at least one ten-day course. The results are encouraging among the addicts who have
taken Vipassana courses in the final part of their rehabilitation programme.

Vipassana benefits recovering addicts both directly through their participation in meditation courses,
and indirectly as well. Nearly all the counsellors at Cyrenian House are ex-addicts who have passed
through its programme themselves. Once they are firmly established in the Dhamma, they provide
excellent role models for recovering addicts, inspiring them through such virtues as honesty and
compassion, acquired and cultivated by the practice of Vipassana.
Cyrenian House treats addiction as a family illness and provides support for members of the addict's
family, particularly through the Narcotics Anonymous programme.
Using drugs is a way of suppressing reality, whatever the reality may be; a difficult financial situation,
an unhappy relationship, or simply uncomfortable bodily sensations. This suppression leaves a mark
on the mind. Vipassana meditation is the only technique we know that removes these deep mental
impressions totally. Of course over a long period of time other methods may be helpful, such as giving
positive reinforcement to the conscious mind; in fact, to a large extent the Cyrenian House
programme works in this way. But the speed with which Vipassana works means that addicts can
virtually clear their minds and start again free of the conditioning of this terrible period of their lives.
Drug addiction is an addiction to bodily sensations. Someone may start taking drugs for any number
of reasons, but eventually it is the dreadful sensations and their accompanying thoughts that drive a
true addict to continue using drugs. The addict becomes caught in the web of craving and aversion. By
fostering equanimity toward sensations and thoughts, Vipassana opens a way out of this web.
An important part of the rehabilitation process at Cyrenian House is the Narcotics Anonymous
programme, based on the tried and tested methods of Alcoholics Anonymous. This programme
encourages self-evolvement through self-awareness and understanding. Addicts learn to accept
themselves and others as they are, to bring honesty into their everyday lives. As with Vipassana, the
understanding of impermanence is of central importance to the Narcotics Anonymous programme.
Addicts base their recovery on the understanding that things are changing and that life is manageable
by taking it one day at a time. Vipassana reinforces this approach by showing how to take life one
moment at a time.
During their stay at Cyrenian House, addicts realise that they and no one else are responsible for their
recovery. This realisation plus the observation of successful role models (former addicts who have
learned Vipassana) provide the impetus to undertake a ten-day course.
Confidence building is an essential part of the programme, from detoxification through sharing
household duties and the halfway house experience.
Simply having completed a Vipassana course is itself a great boost to the confidence and self-esteem
of an addict. Still more importantly, the technique fosters self-dependence and inner strength. By
continuing the practice, the addict develops these qualities to achieve positive results.
Vipassana shows the addict that there are alternatives to using drugs, by providing the example of the
peace and tranquillity that is attainable within oneself through meditation. A course thus gives an
understanding of harmony that is experiential rather than merely intellectual.
When people have used drugs for long periods of time, they become numb to feelings. When they stop
using drugs, it is important for them to have time to experience and identify feelings, and to accept
the feeling of isolation and low self-esteem that is common among addicts. To attend a Vipassana
course when one has just stopped using drugs is to do a course as an addict, with the values and
outlook of an addict. To do a course after a period of sobriety, having learned to accept oneself, is to
do a course honestly as a human being. For this reason we believe that a Vipassana course is a perfect
conclusion to the Cyrenian House programme.
The continuing practice of Vipassana assists in times of stress which could have led to a relapse in the
Addiction goes to the deepest level of the mind, and if it is not to recur it must be removed by the
roots. The deepest level of the mind is constantly in touch with bodily sensations. Through Vipassana

one can learn to observe these sensations with equanimity, and by doing so eradicate addiction from
the depths of the mind.
From numerous examples it appears to us that after undergoing a Vipassana course, an addict shows
dramatic behavioural improvement, far more so than an average person with no dependencies.
Recovered addicts who have passed through the Cyrenian House programme and a Vipassana course
show exceptional willingness to help other addicts.

Problems with Current Therapeutic Approaches

Problems with Current Therapeutic Approaches for Alcohol-Drug Abusers and How
Vipassana Helps Them

Dr. Raman Khosla

Substance abuse is a very complex disorder, being neither a medical disorder alone, nor a
psychological problem, nor a social disturbance, but a biopsychosocial disorder. Complex in its
causation, effects and treatment, the addict demonstrates the "revolving door phenomenon"
characterised by initiation, continuation, abuse, cessation and relapse.
In recent psychiatric diagnosis and understanding, tremendous importance has been given to the
concept of "craving," understood in substance abuse language as "one drink, another drink." In the
World Health Organisation (WHO) International Classification of Diseases ICD-10 draft (1988), as
many as four out of seven concepts in the diagnosis of substance abuse are related to the
phenomenon of "craving."
The available treatment modalities in substance (alcohol and drug) abuse are divided into 3 major
groups: chemical treatment, psychotherapeutic approaches and behavioural therapies. Chemical
treatment includes acute detoxification usually with benzodiazepines or clonidine, and chronic
maintenance treatment with disulfiram, naltrexone or methadone. Psychotherapies include self-help
groups like Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous (A.A / N.A.), family therapies, and
individual psychotherapies; supportive, cognitive or analytic reconstructive. Behaviour therapies
comprise a wide variety of procedures, such as the relaxation procedures like Jacobson's progressive
muscle relaxation or biofeedback procedures, aversion therapies, systemic desensitisation, covert
sensitisation and social skills and assertiveness training.
There are many disadvantages with these treatment modalities.
1) None of them alone helps. One to two year studies show not more than one-third of all substance
abusers to be totally free of drugs, even with optimal treatment combination.
2) The problem of matching an addict to treatment, i.e. which addict would benefit from which
treatment, has not been solved, despite many attempts to do so.
3) The creation of an iatrogenic (i.e., health professional created) substitute dependence, of the
abuser on lesser evils; either substitute chemicals, external instruments or other humans (therapists).
4) None of them tackles craving, the most powerful cause of relapse. It is a psychological drive or
desire, having all the three important components of cognition, conation and mood. Most therapies
tackle only the secondary biopsychosocial consequences only of the drug.

5) Finally, the most significant element is that the personality is dominated by its unconscious aspects.
We attempt to change it analytically or cognitively through the conscious mind, thereby tackling only
the tip of the iceberg. Intellectual insight alone does not help drug abusers. Drives, mood states,
motivation, and other personality components are very difficult to handle with psychotherapeutic
procedures. The hallmarks of a drug addict's personality, i.e. emotional immaturity, emptiness, need
for immediate gratification, escapist, manipulative and irrational attitudes, seem extremely resistant to
change by intellectual means.
Meditation is defined as a family of techniques which have in common a conscious attempt to focus
attention or awareness in a non-analytical way, and an attempt not to dwell on the discursive,
ruminative content of thought. All forms of meditation help drug addicts, who show short-term
improvement. However, with most forms of meditation this is due to a non-specific physiological
relaxation response. Unfortunately, the important relative demerit of all other meditations is their total
lack of relationship with the mental defilements and impurities of craving and aversion at the deepest
roots of the mind.
Vipassana meditation is not a treatment modality for drug abuse or any other mental or physical
illness, but a way of living. However, like the by-product of molasses obtained in the production of
sugar, many psychosomatic diseases show improvement due to the purification of the mind.
As opposed to most meditations, which aim at concentration or relaxation of the mind, the aim of
Vipassana is one step beyond that. The goal is purification of the mind by removing all its negativities
and hence uncovering all its positivities, which are the basic inherent nature of every human mind.
The ultimate goal is a totally pure or deconditioned mind. A creative mind (self aware, with positive
emotions, represented symbolically by the spiral) replaces the routine reactive mind, (obeying the
stimulus-response principle, with no self-awareness, represented symbolically by the wheel). As a
consequence, mental equanimity or balance of mind increases in every life situation.
The basis of mental purification in Vipassana is that it tackles mental impurities at their roots, that is,
at the level of physical bodily sensations, awareness of which is the only proven basic function of the
unconscious mind. The importance of the mind has been repeatedly emphasised by Gotama the
Buddha, the master psychologist beyond compare, who rediscovered Vipassana. The Buddha said:
"Mind precedes all phenomena. Mind matters most, because everything is mind-made. Mind can
become one's worst enemy or one's best friend."
Psychoanalysts, behaviourists and cognitive psychologists all accept emotion, but only its
psychological component, totally ignoring its physical component of sensation. Every sensation is a
truth, the product of an underlying biochemical reaction. And every emotion is accompanied by a
sensation. In this way, the emotions can be explored through the concrete medium of body
sensations. Therefore the emphasis in Vipassana is on vedana, the feeling of bodily sensations.
Vedana is the third of the four parts of the mind described by the Buddha. In the modern informationprocessing paradigm, these four parts of the mind are best described as consciousness, perception,
sensation and reaction. Although simultaneous observation of body (kaya), sensations (vedana), mind
(citta) and mental contents (dhamma) is going on in every Vipassana meditator, the focus for the
meditator is very clearly on (vedananupassana) the observation of sensations. Hence the advantage of
Vipassana is that it works at the level of both mind and matter. The exploration of matter is done
using the instrument of mind and the exploration of mind is done using the unique and wonderful
instrument of matter. Here lies the basic difference with other psychologies, which tackle mind at the
level of mind alone.
In Vipassana, there is no dependence on any instrument, chemical or human being (therapist, teacher
or guru) or group of beings. In the words of the Buddha: "You are your own master and you make
your own future."
The basic practical difference between Vipassana and all other meditation techniques is that it deals
with truth at an experiential level within. There is no trace of falseness, no verbalisation or

visualisation as seen in other meditations. Insight or wisdom in Vipassana is not received or

intellectual but experiential insight at the level of the feeling of body sensations. Walking on the path
of truth (Dhamma), personal realisation of truth automatically changes the habit pattern of the mind,
which subsequently lives according to the truth only. The truth is the natural law of the mind and
body-all laws of physics are observed by any Vipassana meditator to be the same, both inside and
outside the individual. Hence Vipassana is not just a scientific art of living, but the true science of the
mind, the true psychology.
As regards drug abuse, the basis of all addiction has been found to be craving (tanha). Literally
meaning thirst, craving is the mental habit of insatiable longing for what is not, which implies an equal
and irremediable dissatisfaction with what is.
The root of all craving is vedana. All human behaviour is the result of reactions to inner body
sensations, be they mental, vocal or physical reactions. All reactions are either in the group of "I want/
like" (craving) or "I don't want/ like" (aversion), which are two sides of the same coin. This leads to
clinging (upadana), which can lead only to unhappiness. In the words of the Buddha: "All suffering
which arises has reaction as its cause. If all reactions cease to be, there is no more suffering."
The Buddha has done yeoman service to human psychology by describing and analysing in detail 108
ways of behaviour or manifestations of craving which can be basically grouped into three categoriescraving for:
1) sense objects,
2) becoming (I, mine, my views) and
3) non-existence or non-becoming.
In craving, there is a marked attachment to the habit of seeking sensual gratification. Addicts take a
drug because they wish to experience the pleasurable sensation that it produces in them, even though
they know that by taking it, they reinforce their addiction. Deeper than this is the addiction to the
condition of craving. The object of craving is secondary, best seen in those persons who abuse
multiple drugs; more importantly, they seek to maintain continually the state of craving itself, because
it produces a pleasurable sensation within them, which they wish to prolong. Hence, the basis of all
addictions is an " addiction to one's own inner bodily sensations"-liking and craving for the pleasant
sensations and disliking and aversion to the unpleasant ones. Craving then becomes a habit which
they cannot break. Just as an addict gradually develops tolerance towards the drug of abuse and
requires larger doses to achieve the desired effect, this addiction to craving becomes steadily stronger,
the more people seek to fulfil it. The greater the craving, the more it leads to unhappiness; as it
prevents people from seeing the reality of every moment, seeing instead only the distorted truth, the
truth as if through a dark glass.
Vipassana has and will continue to help alcohol and drug addicts because it tackles the root of all
addiction, which is craving. There is a need for scientific studies demonstrating the tremendous
efficacy of Vipassana in helping alcohol and drug abusers.
To conclude with the ever inspiring words of the Buddha: "If the roots remain untouched and firm in
the ground, a felled tree still puts forth new shoots. If the underlying habit of craving and aversion is
not uprooted, suffering arises anew over and over again."

Vipassana in the War against Drugs

The first time I heard about Vipassana, my reaction was just about what any average young boy would
have had: "Meditation! That's for the oldies." But somehow or the other, it remained in my head.

Curious to know more, I managed to get some more information and decided to try it out. Some
people did discourage me but the seed was sown.
I came to Dhamma Giri for a course and completed it. I emphasise the word "completed" because an
addict is a waster, a useless mass of flesh, who is no good to anyone, not even to himself. Now me, for
example, I would start many things with good intentions but my addiction would just not let me
complete anything. Sooner or later I would get fed up, bored and quit whatever work I had
undertaken, causing a lot of tension to everyone around me. So, in that sense, completing my first
course was like a rebirth for my self-confidence.
During the course, I had a lot of time for reflection, reflection on the past, but most importantly,
reflection on the technique of meditation. It appeared easy until I actually started doing it. It is hard
work. But it brought home a few truths to me: that craving, aversion, and ego are dukkha (suffering).
I felt that the technique was specially made for me. I was suffering from these defilements and I did
not even know it.
My problem was Drug Addiction. If you analyse, it boils down to one main fact; mental craving. The
physical craving comes much later. In fact, the mental craving remains even long after the cold turkey
(drug withdrawal) is through. Now this is where Vipassana comes in, teaching you how to deal with
these problems when they arise. Furthermore, the discourses in the evening helped to clear out any
ambiguity. All in all, after completion of the course, I really felt that now I have something, not only to
fight this craving for intoxicants, but even to build a more cordial atmosphere around myself in daily
Coming back home, things were really good for some time. I found myself more relaxed, and that is a
state of mind not a posture. But still it was not the end of my drug career. I was not doing it every day
now, my use had become occasional. The mental craving was still there and at times I would succumb
to it. At this point, I knew that this was my weakness and I resolved to do something about it (the
second step of the Narcotics Anonymous Programme).
I came back to do another course and spent a long time within the confines of Dhamma Giri; growing
in Dhamma, doing courses and seeing the other side of life. Believe me, it is much more beautiful (but
again that is craving). As I started understanding more about Dhamma, I started applying it more and
more in my life. But I was still far away from the goal I had set for myself, and that was a complete
abstinence from intoxicants. During my stay there, I would go home sometimes to take a break, but
back home it was the same story again.
This craving or love-hate relationship with intoxicants is a very deep rooted defilement of the mind.
The sooner a person realises this, the better. For from my experience, I can say one thing; there is a
very thin line separating having and not having intoxicants, and I have one understanding now: that it
is entirely up to me. Today I am leading a regular life in Bombay, I have a job, I work six days a week,
a side of life which I had never seen earlier but which I really enjoy. I get a sense of satisfaction, a
sense of achievement, which is topped off with a sitting at the end of the day.
Lastly, I would like to say that Vipassana teaches you one thing. You have to fight your own battles.
The only help given to you, and what a help it is, are the two weapons of Anapana (awareness of
breath) and Vipassana (awareness of body sensations). The rest depends on how good your strategy
is. No excuses are allowed because the weapons are always with you. And if the teaching is adhered
to sincerely and diligently, no one can fail, because Vipassana is truly the art of living.

How Vipassana helped me get rid of Drugs

Praveen Ramakrishnan
My introduction into Vipassana was by sheer fate. Even today, it amazes me that such a fickle minded
person could change and develop a strong sense of will power.

On admission into college at the age of fifteen (1978), I was led into the world of narcotics, first by
mild intoxicants and then, as one finds dissatisfaction in milder forms of pleasure, I moved on to the
use of heroin and its derivatives. This habit of mine started initially just for the thrill of it, but I began
to realise that I could do nothing without the assistance of the drug. I tried many a time to reason
with myself, but since I lacked will power, I could never face the fact that I was a drug addict.
Soon the matter came to be known by my near and dear ones. I lost face in society, and even after
trying to quit this habit, I was drawn to this drug because of an emptiness which no amount of
reasoning would help.
Soon the hospital trips started. I was detoxified many a time but the effect would last for a maximum
period of a month. Then there would be a relapse. The counselling from the doctors, who were purely
commercially motivated, had stopped having the mild impact it had once made on me. My studies
started faltering. The peace at home was destroyed. Soon, even my own family members were against
me. Fortunately, they had not given up on me entirely. My life became intolerable.
One day, out of the blue, one of my father's close friends who had taken a ten day course of
Vipassana, convinced my father that a course or two would help me, and even if it failed, I would have
nothing to lose. So in March 1983, I made a trip to the hospital and was detoxified for the last time.
Then my journey to Dhamma Giri started.
I was brought to Dhamma Giri against my wishes, and the first impression of this place was of an
open jail with closed boundaries.
The camp was conducted by an Assistant Teacher, and on entry into the place, I was treated like a VIP,
and was led to the teacher. The teacher made sure that I was relieved of all my money, and told me
that under no circumstances would I be allowed to leave the camp before the completion of the
course. A Dhamma worker was assigned for my welfare. I checked-in and the journey started.
The course began as usual with Anapana. Since my mind was not used to even the mildest forms of
concentration without any external help, I found it extremely difficult. I thought about running away
on the first day, but knew that without any money, I would not get very far. Therefore I decided to
stay, with a little compulsion from the Dhamma worker. The love shown by him was one of the turning
factors. Though he was only a year or two older than me, the maturity and the wisdom he possessed
was far beyond my comprehension. I tried to make him angry, but he would not change his outlook
towards me. This further encouraged me, and as usual, Vipassana was taught on the fourth day.
Initially, I would not adhere to the rule of adhitthana(strong determination) but on the ninth day I
decided to give it a try. I managed to sit through the torture of a whole hour without changing my
posture, and that somehow opened my outlook. I decided that if this pain could be tolerated for an
hour, then in the same manner, I would be able to give up drugs, though the task was not an easy
Some rules of the camp were amended for my convenience. The rules of noble silence and seriousness
were waived. Also, I was served dinner, which was to my benefit, since I was physically quite weak.
After I got out of the camp, my first thought was to go to Bombay to have a mild dose of the drug. But
on my arrival, I found that my craving was reduced. I decided to put it off for a day. The day turned
into two, and then day by day I found out that I could do without the drug. I have been free of drugs
for the last six years, and the craving for the drug is no longer there.
I returned to Dhamma Giri in 1986, and served and sat courses for nine months, which helped me to
further strengthen my foundation in life, and to improve my practice.
In conclusion, the pains which were brought on during every withdrawal process, which made me
succumb to the drug, were finally eliminated with the help of Vipassana. Now, I feel that I am a
socially useful and normal human being.

A Personal Communication
Mr. Sridhar
Ladies and Gentlemen, my name is Sridhar and I am a drug addict. It is entirely by the grace of God
and the help I received from the fellowship of Narcotics Anonymous that I am clean today.
I am sharing with you my painful experience as an addict and my joyful experience of Vipassana
meditation. I have been looking forward to this wonderful opportunity of sharing my experience in
person, but due to unavoidable circumstances I have not been able to do so. However, I am grateful to
you all, and in particular to Dr Chokhani, for giving me this opportunity to present a paper.
To describe my past briefly, I started using drugs when I was in college. Initially it was the thing that I
always searched for. There was always a vacuum within me and drugs would fill that vacuum. As days
progressed, I started depending on drugs more and more, and then came the time when I was
hooked. I had discontinued my studies after graduation and lost about 18 different jobs. My bank
balance and social standing were gone. I became a social leper, a burden to my family, an
embarrassment to my friends. I tried hospitals, acupuncture, yoga, transcendental meditation,
religious centres, geographical changes, psychiatrists and three girl friends. It was in the year 1984,
after suffering for 11 years, that I found the fellowship of Narcotics Anonymous, and since then I am
away from drugs.
As I realised late in life that I had wasted enough time as an addict, I wanted to make up for it all at
once, with a career, money, education etc. I therefore attended various seminars on personality
development and courses of such type. Though I benefited from these, the emptiness within me
persisted. So my friends who were addicts suggested that I do the ten-day Vipassana course. I did it
with utmost honesty.
The major problems faced by me in life were the things that I learnt to face here. I shall be brief on a
few points:

Never in my life had I any semblance of patience. I wanted things to happen my way, and I wanted
them to happen right now. Here for the first time I sat in a place for ten hours together without
moving. The thought of it itself was frightening. When I confessed to my teacher on the third day that
it is not possible for me to sit in one place for long hours, he reminded me that I was sitting in one
position for nine months when I was born. I had done it then and I could do it again, he said. This
changed my whole attitude and I sat with ease for the rest of the days.

My attitude had been that everybody should tolerate whatever I do and I will not tolerate even the
slightest discomfort; physical, mental or emotional. During the ten days I had the best opportunity to
identify and accept the feeling as it was.
This was very alien to me. I got in touch with myself. For the first time in my life I met Mr Me, from
whom I have been trying to run away. Now, though I do not claim to be a paragon of virtue, I am
much more practical in life when it comes to accepting (others and myself), and fairly patient. I am
also very much aware when I am backsliding.


I had never woken up before 8 a.m. in the morning. As an addict I used to get up anywhere between
11 a.m. and 2 p.m. and sleep at 2 a.m. or afterwards. Discipline and regularity were unknown to me.
After doing this course, though it may appear trivial to many, I have initiated regular habits of getting
up early and sleeping at a fixed time. Once I stick to this schedule, everything else falls into place
The spiritual principles advocated by the institution and practised by the followers appealed to me a
lot. I do try and put it in practice to the best of my ability every day.
To me this ten day course of Vipassana was a very memorable experience, and I intend continuing the
programme of meditation and the principles for the rest of my life. If there is anybody who has a
problem with drugs or alcohol and who is doing this course, my request to him is give it an honest try.
It works.

Heroin Experience Overcome Through Vipassana Meditation

The journey to Vipassana via heroin was a long one, however, a very interesting and rewarding one.
It all started when I left school and joined college for which I really wasn't fit. Not many students at
that age are mature enough to handle that amount of freedom suddenly bestowed upon them. I
certainly wasn't.
In this college environment there were new friends and new things to experiment, with which were
unthought of at school. We were exposed to co-education, there was skipping lectures, cigarettes,
alcohol, drugs, and many other temptations. Experiences narrated by senior students fascinated most
of the junior students. My friends and I experimented with these and I thought I was having a nice
time, saying to myself that I was enjoying college life. Later I realised this was not true. During our
experiments, we discovered heroin or smack or Brown Sugar. It was all right for the first week but
when we stopped taking it, we realised that we were already addicted. Our bodies couldn't bear not
having heroin. I didn't know what to do except to keep taking it in order to keep my body normal. This
experiment was at the cost of my education and two years of my youth.
For two years, I was in complete misery: so was my family, and others who cared for me. My family
tried everything, doctors, psychiatrists, temples, shrines, priests, holy people, etc. I was also
hospitalised, but all was in vain. I was addicted to heroin physically and mentally.
During this quest of mine I had the opportunity to meet Mr. S. N. Goenka, but at that time the
meeting did not have much impact on me, as I was more interested in other things and thought that
this was just another idea my family had adopted to help me get rid of my vice. During my meeting
with Mr. Goenka, he told me that I should have control over my mind; this I knew I did not have. He
told me that he taught people Anapana and Vipassana meditation which helped them to have control
over their minds, and if I wanted to learn this I could come for a course. However, I did not attend a
course at that time.
Seven months later, I was hospitalised and the doctors recommended that I go to a rehabilitation
centre in Bombay. This idea did not appeal to me. Actually I just wanted to have another dose of
heroin but supervision was very strict and I had no alternative but to start the treatment.
While in the hospital I started reading a book on philosophy. I was fascinated by the description of
what a healthy mind could do, and I decided I would rather learn meditation than go to the
rehabilitation centre. I remembered my meeting with Mr. Goenka. I discussed with my family and
doctors, and they gave me permission to go in the month of March 1983. Before enrolling for the

course I had my last dose of heroin outside the gates of Dhamma Giri but as the course started I
decided to give the technique a fair trial.
If soap is soap, it will do its job; likewise Vipassana did its job and I felt that once again I was free.
With a new determination, I went back home and did not meet any of my old acquaintances. This was
a great help.
There is a phrase: "Once a junkie, always a junkie." Looking at me, some of my friends started to
believe that this may not be true. A few came to Dhamma Giri and derived a lot of benefit. The very
same rehabilitation centre where I was to go, invited me to deliver a talk. I was also invited to speak
at the hospital. Many came to try Vipassana and all benefited. I am now nearly four years clean and
am helping in my family business. The same family that used to think I was a liability now thinks I am
an asset. A few of my family members have also attended Vipassana courses; and today Vipassana
continues to help me in my work.
Though the journey into Vipassana was a very long and strenuous one, the fruits have been more than

Pali-A Brief Overview - by S.N. Tandon

The word Pali means: 1. A line; 2. a causeway; 3. a sacred text; 4. the texts recording the teachings
of the Buddha; 5. a passage from such texts; 6. the language of these texts and its auxiliaries, and
also of early Indian inscriptions.
In the case of the "texts recording the teachings of the Buddha", this word is generally derived from
the root pal, which means "to preserve", implying thereby the texts which preserve the teachings of
the Buddha.
The Pali Language
Pali is a Middle Indo-Aryan language of north Indian origin. It is also known as Magadhi, although it
was spoken, or at least well understood, in almost the whole of Northern India in the Buddha's time.
One can get on nodding terms with Pali without much struggle. It is quite easy as compared to
Sanskrit, since:
- the number of characters in the alphabet is less;
- its does not use the dual number in its declensions and conjugations;
- in declensions, the dative has almost lost its separate existence;
- the number of cases with separate terminations stands greatly reduced;
- two of the tenses (the periphrastic future and the benedictive) have fallen into disuse; and
- rolling compounds of monstrous length have given way to smaller ones of reasonable length.
Pali is a reverberating, sweet language. R.C. Childers1 has compared it to Italian. According to him,
"Pali is at once flowing and sonorous: it is a characteristic of both languages that nearly every word
ends in a vowel, and that all harsh conjunctions are softened down by assimilation, elision or crasis,
while on the other hand both lend themselves easily to the expression of sublime and vigorous
Pali Grammar No "Bug-bear"
Unlike Sanskrit grammar, Pali grammar is no "bug-bear". The standard work on Sanskrit grammar is
that of Panini which has nearly 4,000 aphorisms. The standard work on Pali grammar is that of
Kaccana which has merely 675 aphorisms!
It is not essential that one must possess knowledge of the Sanskrit language before one embarks on a
study of the Pali language, although prior knowledge of Sanskrit is quite helpful in learning Pali. It has

been estimated that nearly two-fifths of the Pali vocabulary consists of words identical in form with
their Sanskrit equivalents2 and that the bulk of the remaining words are their simplified cognates3.
Pali Literature
Pali Literature is generally classified under three broad headings: 1. Tipitaka (containing the words of
the Buddha4 and some of his distinguished disciples); 2. Atthakatha (commentary on the Tipitaka);
and 3. Tika (sub-commentary on the Atthakatha). Besides these, there is some other literature
comprising works on grammar, metrics, prosody, etymology, rhetoric, logic, astrology, polity, history,
genealogy, medicine, pharmacology, etc.
Barring the Tipitaka and some of the Atthakatha, most of the remaining literature is not available
in India but only in some of its neighbouring countries such as Burma, Ceylon, Thailand, etc. in their
own scripts. An effort is being made by the Vipassana Research Institute to locate all such literature,
most of which is of Indian origin5, and publish it initially in the Devanagari script.
The Tipitaka is arranged in three great divisions: 1. Vinaya Pitaka; 2. Sutta Pitaka; and 3.
Abhidhamma Pitaka.6 The first one contains the rules of conduct for the monastic order; the second is
a collection of discourses; the third is a compendium of profound teachings elucidating the functioning
and inter-relationships of mind, mental factors, matter and the phenomenon transcending all these.
In the Suttanta discourses, the Buddha teaches in conventional terms (I, we, he, she, man, woman,
cow, tree, etc.), looking to the intellectual level of the audience. In the Abhidhamma, the teaching is in
terms of the ultimate reality, and everything is expressed in terms of khandhas, ayatanas, dhatus,
indriyas, sacca and so on.
Priceless Legacy
The Buddha's words are his priceless legacy to the world at large. He expounded the Four Noble
Truths: 1. There is suffering; 2. There is origin of suffering; 3. There is cessation of suffering; 4. There
is a path leading to the cessation of suffering. This path, which the people had forgotten over the
ages, was rediscovered by him as the Noble Eightfold Path, comprised of sila (morality), samadhi
(concentration of mind) and panna (insight). These three taken together constitute the practice of
Vipassana, which is an unfailing instrument for the total liberation of a human being from all suffering.
When liberated, enlightened persons have been found to acclaim exultantly:
"Birth is finished; the higher, sublime life has been fulfilled; what had to be done has been done; there
is nothing more left to do."
The Buddha's sermons have only one flavour: the flavour of liberation (vimutti). His manner of
teaching Dhamma-the universal Laws of Nature-was unique. He made use of parables and similes
drawn from ordinary life which anybody could understand, appreciate and imbibe. For instance:
- He expressed the difference between an impure mind and a pure mind by citing the example of a
dirty cloth and a clean cloth. Only the clean cloth will absorb the dye; so also only the pure mind will
retain the Dhamma.
- Just as the footprint of all animals can be contained within the footprint of an elephant, all
wholesome dhammas are included in the Four Noble Truths.
- Sila is like the bark of a tree; samadhi like its wood; and panna like the inner pith.
- Following a wrong path is a wasteful effort like trying to get oil out of sand, squeezing the horns of a
cow to get milk; churning water to make butter; or rubbing two pieces of wet green wood to light fire.
- One who has lost the status of a bhikkhu for transgression of any of the major Vinaya rules is like: 1.
a person whose head has been cut off from his body-he cannot become alive even if the head is fixed

on the body; 2. leaves which have fallen off the twigs of the tree-they will not become green again
even if they are attached back to the leaf-stalks; 3. a flat rock which has been split-it cannot be made
whole again; 4. a palm tree which has been cut off from its stem-it will never, never grow again.
The Commentarial Literature
This literature is a big aid in the interpretation of the Tipitaka and is very useful for studying ancient
Indian polity, history, geography, and social and economic life. It also deals extensively with usage in
grammar and derivation of words. A large number of edifying tales lend special charm to this
The most important Pali commentators are Buddhadatta, Buddhaghosa, Dhammapala, Upasena and
Mahanama. Out of these, Buddhaghosa is by far the most celebrated one. He is credited with writing a
large number of commentaries in a very lucid style and also producing a number of other works of
exceptional merit. His maiden production was the Visuddhimagga (The Path of Purification) which is a
concise but complete encyclopaedia of Buddha's teaching. About this work, James Gray opined: "If he
had written nothing else, it alone would have secured him undying fame." 7
This literature is also full of inspirational material. A reference has been made, for example, to three
monks who decide to sit in a closed campus for three months for intensive meditation. Observing
Noble Silence, they work very hard. After three months they end their silence and exchange greetings.
Then they enquire how far each one allowed the mind to wander. Their individual replies were: "Not
beyond our campus"; "Not beyond my residential hut"; "Not beyond the frame of my body". The last
one drew applause from the other two.
What Light from Outside?
In short, Pali is a repository of supreme knowledge because it is concerned mostly with the words of
an Enlightened Person or detailed explanation of his teachings in the form of commentaries and
subcommentaries and kindred literature. The content is so inspiring that even a Western scholar
Neumann had to admit:
"He who knows Pali needs no light from outside."
1. The author of "Dictionary of the Pali language."
2. E.g., anga, kamala, citta, nadi, megha, yuddha, etc.
3. E.g., gaha (for grha), thana (for sthana), digha (for dirgha), nigrodha (for nyagrodha), savaka (for
shravaka), rassa (for hrasva), and so on.
4. The earlier division of the Buddha's words was nine-fold: i.e., sutta (discourses), geyya (mixed
prose), veyyakarana (exegesis), gatha (verses), udana (solemn utterances), itivuttaka (sayings of the
Buddha), jataka (birth stories), abbhutadhamma (extraordinary things), and vedalla (analysis).
5. In a text known as Gandhavamsa, which is a modern catalogue of Pali books and authors, written
in Pali in Burmese script, there is given a list of authors who wrote Pali books in India. These books
are extant in Burma where the Catalogue was drawn up.
6. The main titles of books under these divisions are:
(1) Vinaya Pitaka: Parajika-khandha, Pacittiya, Mahavagga, Cula-vagga, Parivara.
(2) Sutta Pitaka: Digha Nikaya, Majjhima Nikaya, Samyutta Nikaya, Anguttara Nikaya, Khuddaka
Nikaya (comprising Khuddaka-patha, Dhammapada, Udana, Itivuttaka, Sutta-nipata, Vimana-vatthu,
Petavatthu, Theragatha, Therigatha, Apadana, Buddhavamsa, Cariya-pitaka, Jataka, Maha-niddesa,
Cula-niddesa, Patisambhida-magga).
(3) Abhidhamma Pitaka: Dhamma-sangani, Vibhanga, Dhatukatha, Puggala-pannatti, Kathavatthu,

Yamaka, Patthana.
Three other works-Nettipakarana, Petakopadesa and Milinda-panha-are also treated as part of
Tipitaka, on account of their importance.
7. Besides Visuddhimagga, there are several other works which are of a monumental nature. These
are: Abhidhammattha-sangaha, Nama-rupa-pariccheda, Mahavamsa, Sasanavamsa and
Gandhavamsa. The first one among these contains the quintessence of the Abhidhamma.

Pali Tipitaka as the Source of Vipassana - by Prof. Mahesh Tiwary

The Pali Tipitaka is the repository of the Buddha's teachings. After attaining perfect Enlightenment, he
made a righteous journey (carika) through the villages, towns and cities of the country and met the
people in general. The farmers, labourers, merchants, service men, scholars etc. came into contact
with him, and with curious inquisitiveness, got the opportunity to talk to him. The Buddha, the
compassionate teacher, treated them with patience, encouraging them to be more inquisitive and ask
more questions. He analysed the mental elevation (ajjhasaya), latent factors (anusaya) and belief
(adhimutti) of the persons concerned and gave the sermons to suit the core of the heart of each one.
His sermons had neither any discrimination nor was anything kept secret. They were just like the
showering of clouds, saturated with cold water, over low and high lands without any consideration. In
this way, he continued his wayfaring for forty-five years. All his teachings were recited by his five
hundred arahanta disciples, three months after his demise, and classified into three divisions, namely;
the monastic rules (Vinaya), popular discourses (Sutta), and preponderate expositions (Abhidhamma).
These three divisions are collectively known as the Tipitaka.
It is a fact that the teachings were given by a wayfarer but they had the nature of a soothing stream
bringing down harmony on this earth. He was sanguine to the basic problem of the people and
through continuous effort discovered a path for the eradication of this problem. In other words, the
Buddha's Dhamma was a psycho-ethical outline as well as a practical path for experiencing the truth in
day to day life. It had only one problem and one solution, with one path proceeding rhythmically
between the two. The one problem is the suffering of mankind. The one solution is the attainment of a
state where there is no suffering at all. The path between the two is the three stepped middle path
proceeding without impediment, avoiding the two extremes of the life of care and luxury and that of
austere penance. Its three steps are sila (moral precepts), samadhi (one pointedness) and panna
(right understanding). Sila curtails the physical and vocal misdeeds; samadhi minimises the mental
immoral reactions and panna unfolds the nature of reality by removing the darkness of ignorance and
generating the light of wisdom. This panna is Vipassana.
The term vipassana has two component parts, namely, vi + passana. Vi means minutely, perfectly,
exactly, sincerely, inwardly, intrinsically, etc. Passana means looking, observing, analysing,
introspecting, investigating, etc. Thus literally, it means observing the things all around us minutely. In
the ethical sense, it is directed to observing sincerely the acceleration of the activities inspired by
moral roots, namely, alobha (sacrifice), adosa (friendliness) and amoha (right understanding). It
functions just like an honest doorkeeper in putting a watch over the non-arising of immoral roots.
They are to remain dormant, gradually be minimised and finally uprooted. In popular religious belief, it
means observing minutely that all our activities are inspired by the teachings of the Buddha. Further,
in the sense of practice, it begins with awareness towards the incoming and outgoing breath. It makes
one aware at every moment that such and such breath is coming in or going out. In a highly technical
sense, it is used to denote a cautious watch of the intrinsic nature of reality as it really is. It makes it
crystal clear that everything is impermanent (sabbe sankhara anicca), everything is subject to
suffering (sabbe sankhara dukkha) and everything is substanceless (sabbe dhamma anatta).
Vipassana has been used in the teachings of the Buddha in all these senses. The contents are different
in tune with the mental elevation of the persons concerned. In the present paper, however, our
attempts are to introduce some of these contents to highlight the aspects of Vipassana in the Pali

The Vinaya-Pitaka starts with the scene of attaining enlightenment by the Buddha. He was under the
Bodhi tree, becoming completely free from all the pollutions. On that occasion, he broke out with
spiritual awakening:
aneka-jati samsaram, sandhavissam anibbisam,
gahakarakam gavesanto, dukkha jati punappunam.
gahakaraka, ditthosi. puna geham na kahasi.
sabba te phasuka bhagga, gahakutam visankhitam.
visankhara-gatam cittam, tanhanam khayamajjhaga.1
"Through many a birth, I wandered in samsara, seeking, but did not find the builder of the house.
Sorrowful is it, to be born again and again."
"O House-builder, thou art seen. Thou shall build no house again. All thy rafters are broken. Thy ridgepole is shattered. My mind has attained the unconditioned. The end of craving is achieved."
In this verse there is the hidden role of Vipassana in exposing the nature of things as impermanent
(anicca-bodha). Three events have been illustrated here. The first one is the running from one state of
existence to another. The second one is the breaking down of the rafters and the ridge-pole. The third
one is the removing of the thickets of craving from the consciousness. All these three events speak of
impermanence, the arising and passing away of things. Everything that has come to arise, must cease
to exist.
The nature of impermanence has further been expressed in the process of realisation of the truth. The
Buddha turned the wheel of righteousness at Isipatana-migadaya. The five ascetics heard his
discourses and were exceedingly delighted to understand the flavour of Dhamma.
Out of them, Rev. Kondanna penetrated into the truth first and obtained the "pure and spotless eye"
(dhamma cakkhu udapadi). What was his realisation? It was nothing but the realisation of
impermanance. He clearly grasped that: "Whatsoever is subject to the condition of origination, is
subject also to the condition of cessation." 2
Yam kinci samudaya-dhammam, sabbam tam nirodha-dhammam ti.
The same realisation of impermanence is seen with the other four ascetics at Isipatana-migadaya. The
Buddha administered the exhortation and instruction with a discourse relating to Dhamma, and Rev.
Vappa and Rev. Bhaddiya obtained the "pure and spotless eye." They clearly understood
that-"Whatsoever is subject to the condition of origination, is also subject to the condition of
cessation." 3 Rev. Mahanama and Rev. Assajji also understood the same truth.
The story of the conversion of Yasa, the merchant's son at Varanasi, his four friends and those of
Sariputta and Moggallana, the disciples of Sanjaya, at Rajagaha, was very popular in the VinayaPitaka.4 They were also instructed by the Buddha in the Dhamma. They experienced the nature of
Dhamma and had realisations similar to the above. This speaks of the fact that anicca-bodha,
realisation of the impermanent nature of things, is the first step of Vipassana.
The other function of Vipassana is to make one understand "suffering and substancelessness." This
has been exhibited with reference to five monks at Isipatana-migadaya. The Buddha spoke to them
about the five aggregates of a being. He proceeded thus: "the rupa (body) is not the self." If the body
were the self, the body would not be subject to disease, and we should be able to say: "Let my body
be such and such a one. Let my body not be such and such a one."
But since the body is not the self, therefore the body is subject to disease and we are not able to say:
"Let my body be such and such a one. Let my body not be such and such a one." Similarly the vedana
(sensation), sanna (perception), sankhara (mental disposition) and vinnana (consciousness) are not
the self.

The catechetical method of exposition of the Buddha proceeds further with reference to the five
aggregates. It runs as follows:
"Now what do you think, O Monks, Is the rupa (body) permanent or perishable?"
"It is perishable, Lord."
"And that which is perishable, does that cause pain or joy?"
"It causes pain, Lord."
"And that which is perishable, painful, subject to change, is it possible to regard it as: this is mine, this
is I, and this is my self?"
"That is impossible, Lord."
Similarly, he put questions about vedana (sensation), sanna (perception), sankhara (mental
disposition) and vinnana (consciousness), and received the answers in the same way. Then he
concludes: "Considering this, O Monks, a learned one becomes weary of body, weary of sensation,
weary of perception, weary of mental disposition and weary of consciousness. Becoming weary of all
that, he divests himself of passion; by absence of passion he is made free; when he is free, he
becomes aware that he is free; and he realises that rebirth is exhausted; there is no further return to
this world." 5
Such catechetical adumbration is also attestified in the Mahapunnama Sutta and Punnovada Sutta.
The Buddha is seen proceeding with the questions:
"Is material shape (rupa) permanent or impermanent?"
"Impermanent, revered Sir."
"But is what is impermanent painful or is it pleasant?"
"Painful, revered Sir."
"And is it right to regard that which is impermanent, suffering, liable to change, as, 'this is mine, this
am I, this is my self?'"
"No, revered Sir."
Similarly, he asked about the feeling, perception, mental tendencies and consciousness. He thereupon
concludes that: "if he sees this, Monks, the instructed disciple of pure ones turns away from material
shape, turns away from feeling, turns away from perception, turns away from mental tendencies,
turns away from consciousness; turning away he is detached, by his detachment he is freed, in
freedom there is the knowledge that he is free." 6
With these illustrations, it becomes clear that Vipassana is a practice which serves as an eye-opener to
investigate the fact that everything is impermanent, subject to suffering and substanceless.
Further, the Dhammapada exposes the facts saying that: "When one discerns with right
understanding, that all conditioned things are impermanent, sorrowful and all the dhammas are
without a soul, one is disgusted with ill and is set on the path of purification." 7 "Whenever one
reflects on the rise and fall of the aggregates, the impermanent nature of the complex of personality,
one really realises the truth, finds joy and happiness within and finds oneself on the path of
Deathlessness." 8 This is the real way of observing things and understanding them perfectly. It is said
that "the monk who has retired to a lonely abode, makes his mind calm and perceives the nature of
reality as impermanent, experiences the joy, transcendental in nature, that surpasses all mundane
limits."9 Such a realisation puts one on the path, true in nature.
The other role of Vipassana is seen in unfolding the process of existence by exhibiting the
impermanent nature of things. It is apparent from the Law of Dependent Origination (paticca
samuppada). It appears from the Vinaya Pitaka that when the Buddha attained perfect Enlightenment,
he had the realisation and experience of the truth, and that one is in the process of becoming. He saw
that this process comes into being with the continuous binding of twelve links, revolving ceaselessly
depending on each other. Man goes on transmitting himself from one state of existence to another,
submerged in the ocean of suffering and he does not find even a moment's rest to think over his
pitiable condition. The Buddha sincerely pondered over it and saw that if even one chain of this is

broken, the others will naturally be broken too. This he remarked as understanding of his Dhamma.
Therefore, he said that the Law of Dependent Origination is the profound doctrine and that a clear
understanding of it means a clear realisation of his Dhamma.10
What is this Law of Dependent Origination? It explains that nothing is static. Everything is in the
process of becoming. It continues by mutual dependence. "When there is one, the other comes into
being depending on that. When there is no existence of one, there is no becoming of the other." 11
This speaks of the two aspects of existence. It goes on continuing depending on the factors bound
together without interruption. This he named anuloma-paticca samuppada. Again by breaking of one,
the others also disappear. This he named as patiloma-paticca samuppada.
The twelve links that bind one to the process of becoming are:
(1) Avijja (ignorance),
(2) Sankhara (mental dispositions),
(3) Vinnana (patisandhi consciousness),
(4) Nama-rupa (mind and matter),
(5) Salayatana (six senses),
(6) Phassa (contact),
(7) Vedana (feeling),
(8) Tanha (desire),
(9) Upadana (strong desire, attachment),
(10) Bhava (becoming),
(11) Jati (birth), and
(12) Jara-marana (old age and death).
The circle of existence moves ceaselessly with each of these depending on each other. It is said that:
"depending on ignorance, there is the springing up of the sankharas; depending on sankhara, there
springs up the birth consciousness; depending on the birth consciousness, there comes into being the
mind and matter; depending on mind and matter, there arise the six sense organs; depending on the
six senses, there comes into being contact; depending on contact, there arises feeling; depending on
feeling, there springs the desire; depending on desire, there arises attachment; depending on
attachment, there again starts the becoming; depending on becoming, there arise the old age, death,
etc." In this way the process of existence continues, which causes the continuity of suffering. But this
process is not a static fact. It can be broken. How? The breaking up of one is to put a stop to further
linking. It means when there is no more ignorance, there are no more sankharas. When there is no
sankhara, there is no birth-consciousness, there are no mind and matter and so on. In this way the
process of existence is broken, it falls flat. This, the Buddha regarded as his most vital achievement. It
is possible by understanding the impermanent nature of the links. So long as the man takes them as
static, he is in the process of becoming. But as soon as there is the dawn of Vipassana, rigidity
vanishes and there is a clear chance of getting freedom.
Further, a basic fact in the characteristics of a human being is that he may think of the impermanence
of others but he remains rigid about himself. He has doubt that he is also impermanent. He runs under
such darkness of ignorance and apparently has no hope to be free. But such doubt is removed by
Vipassana. In the process of the practice, one sees with one's intrinsic eye that there is no concept of
mass (ghana-sanna) at all. There is only a flow, appearing and disappearing. This has been clarified by
the Buddha in the Samannaphala Sutta of the Digha-nikaya.12 Hearing the discourse of the Buddha, a
person develops faith in him. This person follows the moral precepts and practises the different stages
of samadhi. Getting maturity in samadhi, his mind becomes serene, pure, translucent, cultured,
devoid of evils, supple, ready to act, firm and unperturbable.
Achieving such a state of mind, he finds himself transferring to the domain of Vipassana. " He applies
and bends down his mind to the 'Insight' that comes from Vipassana." Then he grasps the fact as it
really is. He analyses his personality and finds that: "This body of mine has form, it is built by four
elements, it springs from father and mother, it is continually renewed by so much boiled rice and juicy
food. Its very nature is impermanent, it is subject to erosion, abrasion, dissolution and disintegration.
There is this consciousness of mine too, bound up, on that does it depend." 13 In this way, he

investigates face to face his own personality, made of two things, mind and matter, impermanent,
subject to erosion, abrasion, dissolution and disintegration.
His observation is real and factual. It is just like observing a Veluriya gem and a thread passing
through it. It is illustrated as follows: "Just, O King, as if there were a Veluriya gem, bright, of the
purest water, with eight facets, excellently cut, clear, translucent, without a flaw, excellent in every
way. And through it, a string, blue or orange coloured, or red or white or yellow should be threaded. If
a man, who had eyes to see, were to take it into his hand, he would clearly perceive how the one is
bound up with the other."14 The combination of the two is impermanent and subject to disintegration.
This clear introspecting takes one nearer to the process of Vipassana.
The other aspect of Vipassana may be seen in arousing constant awareness at the mind-door. It
generates awareness and functions as a door-keeper in keeping a watch over the non-arising of
immoral states and arising of moral states. As when a door-keeper is alert at the door, the undesirable
persons, though they have come, do not dare to enter into the room. Similarly, with the presence of
mindfulness (sati), the immoral states dare not raise their heads on the surface of mind. This
mindfulness has been emphasised by the Buddha as "the one and only path leading to the purification
of beings, to passing far beyond grief and lamentation, to the dying out of ill and misery, to the
attainment of right knowledge, and to the realisation of nibbana." It manifests as the four fold setting
up of mindfulness, technically known as: kayanupassana, vedananupassana, cittanupassana, and
dhammanupassana.15 Each of them has been explained minutely in the Maha Satipatthana Sutta.
Vipassana, as has been pointed out in the beginning, has other functions too. A new context is in the
Vedana-samyutta of the Samyutta-nikaya.16 Along with sati, there is the development of sampajanna.
Sati is mindfulness and sampajanna is the panna, right understanding.
The process of arising of vedana is:"Depending upon contact (phassa), feeling (vedana) arises and
depending on feeling, desire (tanha) arises, and so on.17 The feeling may be of two, three, five, six,
eighteen, thirty six or one hundred and eight types.18 "As diverse winds blow in the sky-from the
east, west, north, south, dusty, dustless, cool, hot, soft and boisterous, even so in this body diverse
feelings-pleasant feelings, unpleasant feelings, and neutral feelings arise."19 Whenever any type of
feeling arises due to contact, one should be aware of it, and with the help of sampajanna (right
understanding), one should not develop tanha (desire). Rather vedana should be transformed into
sampajanna. Then instead of developing tanha, the trend should be towards samatha. One should
proceed from the first stage of jhana to the nirodha-samapatti. The text says, "When one has attained
the first absorption, speech has ceased. When one has attained the second absorption, the application
and sustained application of mind have ceased. When one has attained the third absorption, zest has
ceased. When one has attained the fourth absorption, inbreathing and outbreathing have ceased.
When one has attained infinite space, perception of objects has ceased. When one has attained the
infinite consciousness, the perception of the realm of infinite space has ceased. When one has attained
the realm of nothingness, the perception of the realm of infinite consciousness has ceased. When one
has attained the realm of neither-perception-nor-non-perception, the perception of the realm of
nothingness has ceased. Both perception and feeling are ceased when one has attained the cessation
of perception and feeling (sannavedayitanirodham)." One becomes free from the asavas. The lust
(lobha), hatred (dosa) and illusion (moha) are destroyed forever. One can achieve the state of nibbana
in the present state of existence. One is then called vedagu. Again after the destruction of the body,
one is in the state of anupadisesa nibbana, indescribable, uncommentable in Nature: "sankhyam
nopeti vedagu."20
Vipassana as an intrinsic study has been exhibited in the Abhidhamma-Pitaka. It appears there in five
different words: pannindriya, pannabala, sammaditthi, sampajanna, and amoha. Here there is a
difference in the letters but the meanings of all the five are the same as that of Vipassana. What is it?
It is "understanding, search, research of the truth, discernment, discrimination, differentiation,
erudition, proficiency, subtlety, criticism, reflection, analysis, breadth, sagacity, leading, insight,
intelligence, incitement, wisdom as faculty, wisdom as power, wisdom as a sword, wisdom as height,
wisdom as light, wisdom as glory, wisdom as splendour, wisdom as a precious stone, the absence of

dualness, searching out the truth and right view." The same explanation is available for vipassana,
pannindriya, pannabala, sammaditthi, sampajanna, and amoha.
What is it? It is right understanding. What is that? Abhidhamma covers the same problem of suffering
of mankind. For proper understanding and elimination of suffering, there are four ultimate realities.
They are the citta (consciousness), cetasika (psychic factors), rupa (material qualities) and nibbana,
which is a state where there is no suffering at all. Right efforts are needed to eliminate suffering.
How is it possible? Firstly, there is the analysis, and then the process of going from the state of gross
to the state of subtle. The citta has been analysed into 121 types. Out of them, twelve are immoral,
thirty-seven are moral, fifty two are resultant and twenty are inoperative types of consciousness. The
cetasika has also been analysed as fifty-two in number. Their further classification is seen as thirteen
common to all, fourteen immoral and twenty five as moral. Rupa has been divided into twenty-seven
and later on twenty-eight divisions. It is neither moral nor immoral. Nibbana has one type. It is
beyond moral and immoral limitations. It is abyakata.
Analysing them like this, there is the effort of advancing gradually from the gross to the subtle,
subtler, and subtlest state.
The citta and cetasika exist together. In kama-loka and rupa-loka, rupa also exists with them.
Nibbana, though present all the time, manifests in the lokuttara plane.
For the sake of assessment, the consciousness (citta) has been divided into four planes. They are the
kamavacara-citta, rupavacara-citta, arupavacara-citta and lokuttara-citta.21
Kamavacara-citta is a type of consciousness which roams in the world of desire. It is fickle, restless
and unsteady. It goes on moving and creating attachment in worldlings. The more it moves, the more
it creates attachment. The greater is the degree of attachment, the greater is the amount of suffering.
This kamavacara-citta is the main source of suffering.
The practitioner should know clearly the moral, immoral, inoperative and resultant types of
consciousness. In kamavacara-citta, there are eight moral, twelve immoral and eleven inoperative and
twenty three resultant. He should also know the role of psychic factors which make consciousness
moral or immoral. Knowing them, he should try to avoid the immoral ones and develop the moral
ones. With the moral or inoperative types of consciousness associated with nana (right
understanding), a determination takes place to understand suffering and be rid of. He proceeds further
for such minimisation at this stage. Such determination is for kamavacara-citta. It is a gross type of
Rupavacara citta is a jhana-citta. The fickle, unsteady and roaming nature of consciousness is
suspended and concentration on a gross object starts here. Rupa itself means a gross object, having
some form or colour. It is a material one. The activities of the consciousness of roaming here and
there are checked and it is allowed to become concentrated on the aforesaid object. It may be natural
that the consciousness does not like to be concentrated. It runs away from the object but the
practitioner remains patient and draws it from different directions and puts it back on the object. In
this way, a moment comes, when the mind develops concentration on the object of rupa. It has five
stages, one subtler than the other. One proceeds to attain concentration on all the five stages and
achieves firm one-pointedness. This is called rupavacara-citta.
Arupavacara-citta is a still higher jhana consciousness. Arupa means formless. It refers to an object
which has neither form nor colour. After achieving maturity on the object of rupa, the practitioner
exerts to meditate on the object of arupa. Gradually his mind gets trained and develops concentration
on formless objects. It has four stages, successively subtler than the previous one. He develops
concentration on the formless object in all the four stages. It is called arupavacara-citta.
With the practice of rupa-jhana and arupa-jhana, the state of mind becomes very subtle. It is pure,
faultless, free from pollution, subtle, concentrated and pliable. The practitioner transfers himself to the
lokuttara bhumi of consciousness to realise his goal. He then has the lokuttara-citta. What is that?
Loka means the process of repeated existence. Uttara means above. Thus lokuttara-citta is a type of

consciousness beyond the loka. Finding this type of consciousness the practitioner makes an
introspection. By observing the consciousness minutely, he sees that although it has become very
subtle, there are still ten fetters there in a very reduced form. Although they are in a reduced form,
there is still a possibility that they may flare up with a combination of fuel. As long as they are not
uprooted and fully destroyed, it is difficult to attain nibbana.
There are ten fetters, namely: sakkaya-ditthi (belief in a permanent soul), vicikiccha (doubt),
silabataparamasa (belief in purification by rites and rituals), kama-raga (desire for sensual pleasures),
patigha (ill-will), rupa-raga (desire for rupi-divine kingdom), arupa-raga (desire for arupi-divine
kingdom), mana (conceit), uddacca (distraction), and avijja (ignorance). They cannot be destroyed at
one stroke; they are destroyed gradually. The practitioner proceeds towards their destruction. He first
destroys the first three and becomes a sotapanna. Sota means the path leading to nibbana. Apanna
means set in. He is set in the path leading to nibbana. He visualizes the nibbana but it is not yet
attained. Nibbana becomes the object of his consciousness.
Then he comes across kama-raga and patigha. They are very powerful and cannot be easily
destroyed. He first of all makes them weak. After that, he becomes a sakadagami or once-returner. If
he does not attain nibbana in this state of existence, he has only one more life in this world.
He proceeds further and destroys the two fetters that were weakened. With their destruction, he
becomes an anagami or never returner. If he does not attain nibbana here, he will not come again to
this world. He is born in the rupa divine kingdom known as suddhavasa and gains liberation there.
In the end, five fetters remain. He makes his final effort to uproot and destroy them. He is successful
in their destruction. He then becomes an arahanta, which means emancipated being. He understands
clearly that "the process of repeated existence is over, the holy life has been led successfully, the
assigned duties have been fulfilled, the goal has been achieved, one does not have to come here
This wayfaring from kamavacara-citta to lokuttara-citta, with subtle observation, is possible by one
and only one practice, and that is the practice of Vipassana. At each stage, the gross consciousness
disappears and a subtler one appears. In the end, an immensely pure and subtle consciousness arises
and that is the stage of nibbana.
1. Dhp 153-154
2. Sacred Books of the East, Vol. 17, p. 97.
3. Sacred Books of the East, Vol. 17, p. 96.
4. Sacred Books of the East, Vol. 17, p. 146.
5. Sacred Books of the East, Vol. 17, p. 100-101.
6. MN 3.90, 408-410.
7. Dhp 277-279
8. Dhp 374
9. Dhp 373
10. Yo paticca samuppdam janati, so dhammam janati, yo dhammam janati, so paticca samuppadam
janati. DN 3,44
11. Imasmim sati idam hoti, imasmim asati idam pi na hoti DN 3. 44-47
12. DN 1.234-235.
13. Ayamkho me kayo rupi catumahabhutiko matapettikasambhavo odanakummasupacayo
aniccucchadanaparimaddanabhedana viddhamsanadhammo; idam ca pana me vinnanam ettha sitam,
ettha patibaddha'nti.
DN 1.235
14. Dialogues of the Buddha (PTS) Vol 1, page 87
15. DN 2.372-405
16. SN 2.4.249-279
17. Tisso vedana phassaja phassamulaka, phassanidana, phassapaccaya. SN 2.4.258

18. SN 2.4.267
19.Yatha pi vata akase, vayanti vividha puthu.
Puratthima pacchima capi, uttara atha dakkhina.
Saraja araja capi, sita unha ca ekada.
Adhimatta paritta ca, puthu vayanti maluta.
Tathevimasmim kayasmim samuppajjanti vedena.
Sukhadukkhasamuppatti, adukkhamasukha ca ya.
Yato ca bhikkhu atapi, sampajannam na rincati.
Tato so vedana sabba, parijanati pandito.
So vedana parinnaya, ditthe dhamme anasavo.
Kayassa bheda dhammattho, sankhyam nopeti vedagu'ti. S.N. 2.4.260.
20. Tassanurodha athava virodha, vidhupita atthagata nasanti.
Padam ca natva virajam asokam, samma pajanati bhavassa paragu'ti SN 2.4.254
21. DS 3-146
22. Khina jati, vusitam brahmacariyam, katam karaniyam, naparam itthataya'ti pajanati. DN 1.248.

Vipassana and Psychotherapy -- Jyoti Doshi

The modern therapies have bonds both with religious systems and with scientific theories. Areas that
were once considered too mystical, such as meditation and psychedelic experiences, are now viewed
with more respect, as one can see in noting the serious work on Transcendental Meditation and LSD
There are three groups of therapies. The first group emphasises cognitive and emotional processes,
and includes Rational-Emotive Therapy and Feeling Therapy. The second group of therapies
emphasises activity and behavioural processes, including Transcendental Meditation, Implosive
Therapy, Behaviour Modification and Assertiveness Training, while the third group of therapies
emphasises biological processes.
The goal of most therapies is to help the client improve his or her functioning in some way. But the
type of functioning considered important for therapeutic change varies widely. For example, for Cohen,
whose LSD Therapy is used as an adjunct to psychoanalysis, the goals could be to retrieve inaccessible
unconscious material to alter superego functioning. In contrast, behaviour therapists usually have a
specific goal, such as the elimination of fear as in Implosive Therapy or a decrease in a child's
tantrums as in Operant Therapy.
Other approaches prescribe goals that may fall somewhere along the continuum from the very
general, abstract type of change prescribed by Cohen, to the particular, well-defined change of the
behaviourists. For example, moving roughly from the general to the specific: the Gestalt therapist
Yontef strives for Awareness in his clients; Karle, Woldenberg, and Hart hope to have clients live from
their feelings; Glasser encourages a successful identity; Ellis desires the elimination of disordered
thinking and Cotler helps clients assert their rights.
What Is Vipassana?
Vipassana means to see things as they are; to see things in their true perspective, in their true
nature. It is, in essence, a technique of self-observation and self-exploration.
The objective of Vipassana is to purify the mind. All human actions emanate from the mind, and a
pure mind by nature is full of love and compassion. Sustained practice of Vipassana brings about total
transformation of the human personality.
From the psychological point of view, Vipassana can be described as a technique of non-verbal, selfadministered psychoanalysis (in a detached manner), as it sets in motion the process of disintegration
and tension release. One is able to operate on one's own mind and observe it as a witness. To the
extent one develops an attitude of equanimity, one prevents further tying of psychic knots, resulting in
releasing of tension, mental peace and purification of the mind from raga-dosa (craving and aversion).

I believe that the Vipassana meditation technique offers an alternative, not necessarily to replace the
interpersonal encounter that is the core of psychotherapy, but as a valuable technique of reducing
tension, broadening awareness and making life more meaningful and pleasurable, and thereby,
fulfilling the goals of all therapies.
The key to successful therapy lies in creating psychological and physiological conditions that optimise
the natural tendency of the nervous system to stabilise itself. And it is possible to achieve this through
Vipassana can offer relief from stored up anxiety and conflict very systematically, without the need to
have these sensations verbalised. There is no need to receive interpretations from a therapist. The
student has been trained to be a detached observer of his or her own feelings and sensations, which
are impermanent in nature.
Whereas psychotherapy may help the individual to gain intellectual insight into the sources of stress,
all too frequently the old fears persist on a visceral level, and the patient remains discouraged. But
Vipassana gives an opportunity to get rid of old fears even at a visceral level.
Too often traditional psychotherapy or psychoanalysis keeps the patient preoccupied with the dark side
of human nature, by bringing the oedipal wishes and primitive impulses to the conscious level. To
remind anyone of such things will only result in lowering his consciousness. Towards the end of his life
Freud found that the very act of verbalising unpleasant thoughts brought resistance to their
interpretation. Rather than "digging into the mud of a miserable past," one's vision should be enlarged
to "the genius and the brightness of man's creative intelligence."
Through the practice of Vipassana, one learns that the territory of the mind is far more extensive than
Freud realised. Brain researchers too have identified the enormous capacity of the human nervous
system. This untapped potential can be identified through Vipassana meditation.
Vipassana perhaps makes an excellent adjunct to individual therapy, group therapy and family
therapy. Like other forms of psychotherapy, it helps in the release of stress and in the maximisation of
psychological growth and integration. As the well known psychotherapist Fritz Perls explains: "If you
are centred in yourself, then you don't adjust anymore, then you assimilate, you understand, you are
related to whatever happens, without a centre, there is no place from which to work, achieving a
centre, being grounded in oneself, is about the highest state a human can achieve." So if we want to
experience this centre, the first thing we have to do is close our eyes, turn inward, and then take
advantage of this Vipassana meditation technique for recentring, coming home to ourselves.
Alvin Toffler has popularised the term "future shock" to describe the disastrous effect of the
accelerating pace of the modern world on human life. The increasing rate of change and transience is
producing shattering stress and disorientation in individuals, many of whom are being pushed beyond
their ability to cope. Too much change too fast weakens the physiology and causes deterioration of
emotional and mental well-being. No amount of material comfort is sufficient to reverse this damage.
And we know that anxiety is the common denominator in almost all mental disorders.
While psychotherapy is the principle treatment for anxiety neurosis, either alone or combined with
tranquillisers, it is expensive, time consuming and available only in cities. Today, vast numbers of
individuals in our modern world who are not thought of as mental patients are suffering needlessly by
failing to actualise themselves.
For such people, Vipassana will work as a preventive as well as a curative measure. It is easy to
practise, does not need continuous professional attention and it is inexpensive. Vipassana should be
incorporated into our psychotherapeutic repertoire as it has many advantages over other
psychotherapeutic techniques, since it:

1. Teaches one learns how to become a detached observer, keeping in mind the impermanence of
feeling and sensation, happiness or unhappiness.
2. Reduces tension and anxiety.
3. Reduces violence and anger.
4. Increases tolerance and understanding of difficult situations.
5. Helps one to take appropriate decisions and action.
6. Increases constructive activity.
7. Increases work efficiency.
8. Improves interpersonal relationships.
9. Increases receptive, perceptive and cognitive abilities.
10. Develops the habit of appropriate introspection.
11. Helps one regain composure through facing and solving one's problems.
12. Restores equilibrium by reducing stress and maximising the enjoyment of life. It may well offer a
safe and plausible alternative to all forms of drug abuse.
13. Improves communication.
14. Encourages the resolution of emotional conflicts and allows for previously unacceptable aspects of
the self to become integrated into the personality.
15. Reduces the need for excessive sedation with tranquillisers.
16. Normalises the sleep pattern.
17. Enables one to feel fresh and alert.
18. Gives one a feeling of inner happiness and lightness.
By allowing the individual to regain his vital centre of energy, satisfaction and stability, Vipassana can
become the necessary antidote to future shock from the mental health point of view.

The Experience of Impermanence through Vipassana Meditation and the Maturation of

This article explains how Vipassana meditation can be understood through Western psychology, and
why it leads the meditator away from narcissism to mature, social love.

By walking down the path of Vipassana meditation, we arrive at experiences that season and mature
our personalities. The personal transformation we each undergo becomes the catalyst for social
change as we influence everything around us.

The great Vipassana meditation teacher, Sayagyi U Ba Khin, wrote: "Impermanence (anicca) is, of
course, the essential fact which must be first experienced and understood by practice." Anicca is a

gateway, an opening. The complexity and multiplicity of the phenomena of the world can appear like a
thicket, but as a person walks the path of Vipassana meditation, suddenly there is an emergence from
the tangle. Anicca is the clearing. U Ba Khin wrote: "Anicca is the first essential factor-for progress in
Vipassana meditation, a student must keep knowing anicca as continuously as possible." The pali word
anicca is translated into English as impermanence or change. But anicca is not merely a concept. Far
more, it is a sign, a marker like the stone cairns a pilgrim encounters on one of those cloud-hugging
paths in the Himalayas, signposts to indicate the trail that other true pilgrims have blazed. Anicca is a
word-indicator that points to a fact of reality beyond any concept: the ceaseless transformation of all
material in the universe. Nothing is solid, permanent, and immutable. Every "thing" is really an
"event." Even a stone is a form of river, and a mountain is only a slow wave. The Buddha said, sabbe
sankhara anicca-the entire universe is fluid. For the practitioner of Vipassana, anicca is a direct
experience of the nature of one's own mind and body, a plunge into universal reality directly within
oneself. "Just a look into oneself", U Ba Khin wrote, "and there it is-anicca."

For a twentieth-century scientist, anicca is an immersion into the factual reality of biology, chemistry,
and physics-the atomic and molecular universe-as if, after years of reading cookbooks, one at last
could acknowledge that one is the cookie in question.

If anicca is so pervasive, absolute, anciently known and scientifically factual, why do we have to work
so hard to know it? Isn't it obvious, everywhere, to everyone, all day?

Our resistance to the experience of anicca is the great sorrow: sabbe sankhara dukkha-all things are
filled with suffering. Everyone likes the idea of being purified by a dip in the Ganges, but to anyone
standing on its banks as it emerges from the mountains at Rishikesh or Hardwar, icy cold and with a
dangerous current, there has to be a moment of hesitation, if not outright retreat, before the actual
plunge. And so much more with a river that won't purify you unless it washes you away. A dip into
anicca clarifies reality, but it pulls us away from the comfortable, known shore, and that tearing away
is initially frightening and painful. The great sorrow, dukkha, leads to the loss of comforting myth,
familiar alliance, and secure identity-all the hooks by which we cling to the idea that we have an
eternal, immutable, personal self that will never be washed away from us into the river of life. And so
we realise, sabbe dhamma anatta-all phenomena are insubstantial. The fantasy of our own greatness,
the love we have for ourselves and everything we call ours, is the rock on which all of us build our
lives. But every rock is a form of river. Even, or especially, the rock of the self is revealed to be liquid,
essence less, anatta. How terribly, terribly sad it is to feel our lives slipping down the relentless, cold
current of time. Not a scripture in the world is free of this outcry of sorrow and disbelief that the minds
and hearts and homes and families we cherish will all be stripped away from us on our passage across
this earth.
The psalmist wrote:
"Thou turnest man to destruction; and sayest,
Return ye children of men.
For a thousand years in thy sight are but as yesterday when
it is past, and as a watch in the night.
Thou carriest them away as with a flood..."
(The Bible, Psalm 90)

And in the great epiphany of the Bhagavad Gita, Chapter XI, we read of "all-powerful Time which
destroys all things," which is portrayed as a world-consuming conflagration, a fiery finale to all hopes
and dreams. The Koran, sura LVI, reminds us of a time, "When the Terror descends...when the earth
shall be rocked and the mountains crumbled and become a dust scattered...". It is up to us to
understand that that day is every day.

With his characteristic straightforwardness, courage, and clarity, Freud dared to shock his readers with
his views on organized religion. He wrote that every member of humankind felt small and helpless
against the forces of nature, pre-eminently death. The thought of death wounded the individual's
sense of narcissism. Freud felt that every individual was to a greater or lesser extent like Narcissus,
the Greek mythic figure who fell in love with his own reflection. To heal the wounds inflicted by
awareness of time and death upon each of own narcissistic feelings, Freud said, humans bond
together in collective narcissistic excitement. Thus we see collectives like nation-states or organized
religions join in self-proclaimed self-importance. This herd drama helps the individual to feel that even
though his own beautiful self may fade and die, at least he is part or something enduring, important,
and powerful. We need only remember when Freud was writing to realize how tragically keen his
insight was: soon all of Europe was to explode into hordes of self-aggrandizing murderers who justified
their actions on transcendental grounds: I am part of the fatherland, I am forging human history.
Heinrich Himmler, who was in charge of the S.S., the special forces whose job was to kill innocent noncombatant Jews, told his men that he knew they sometimes suffered confusion and guilt over what
they were doing, but they should not be deterred, for they were serving their Leader and Fatherland in
"an unwritten and never-to-be forgotten glory".

Freud's psychoanalytical psychology clarifies the link that joins falling in love with an image of one's
own idealized, beautiful self-narcissism with the narcissistic injury that no person can avoid when even
a glimmer of death crosses their mind, and both to the final link in this small chain: the psychological
defense against death provided by group narcissistic inflation. Grandiose, overweening self-importance
whether individualistic or collective, is one way that small people can experience themselves as safe
and powerful. Grandiosity is a common security operation in a world of insecurity. As Freud so
poignantly foresaw, the greater the insecurity of the times, the greater the likelihood that people will
huddle into defensive, self-protective, self-trumpeting clusters. The power of these human whirlwinds
is as great as the terror that underlies them. They are inaccessible to reason because they spring not
from ideation or dogmas (which are secondarily used to justify and rationalize them), but from deeper
psychological strata: the egoistic desire to transform the world into a stage for one's own, indelible
self. From a desire for permanence to narcissism to grandiosity to social aggression: mob membership
is a common reaction against the great sorrow that is immanent in human life. Intelligence and culture
are no palliative: the greatest Western philosopher since Plato, Martin Heidegger, publicly espoused
Nazism. Similarly, exhortation to abstract values like compassion and service can be used to fuel the
fire of self-importance. When Nathuran Godse assassinated Mahatma Gandhi, he justified his behavior
as an act of selfless courage in the service of his motherland. But his own words in his defense
revealed his fear of being weak, "emasculated" and vulnerable.

Henry David Thoreau was probably the first American to have contact with and attempt to
practice India's ancient pathways to wisdom. He wrote, "Most of what my neighbors consider to be
good, I consider in my heart to be evil; and if I repent of anything at all, it is of my good behavior." It
is in the name of the gods, and the groups, that most murders are done in the service of the chimera
of greatness. From the crusades to the ongoing religions and ideological warfare on our planet today,
we can see activation of the link between the human ability to imagine personal death, and the
reactive, outraged denial of such frailty, with the result of power-seeking and violence. Rather than
correcting this disease of the psyche, organized religions often provide a channel, similar to politics,
through which the howl of incredulous despair can strike out.

Sabbe sankhara anicca. The individualistic drive to transform the world in accordance with egoistic
desires underlies social rage. Vipassana counters that drive at its root. So far I have been discussing
the experience of anicca; now I want to stress the experience of anicca. One insight Freud shared with
the Buddha is that by directly confronting the source of our suffering, we can be freed. To be human is
to suffer; to be fully human is to suffer consciously.
Vipassana meditation enables the ordinary individual to see what is hidden, to confront the elusive, to
envision the unimaginable. Change is invisible; reality is elusive; the evaporation of ourselves is
unimaginable to most of us most of the time. Yet through a gradual, guided, time-tested process, we

may grow in our human capacities. Vipassana provides a developmental ladder by which we can
continue to climb upwards, just as we did as toddlers when we learned to walk, or as we did as
schoolchildren when we learned to read and write. What is terrifying and impossible when viewed as a
whole becomes challenging and possible when viewed step by step.
The rung of the developmental ladder where we now stand is the experience of what might be called
anicca-in-spite-of-ourselves. Because there is a great resistance in our hearts to anicca, because of
the great sorrow involved in the loss of our image of ourselves, with which we have narcissistically
fallen in love, and which we want to preserve and defend by the exercise of willful power-because we
each seek security and satisfaction in life through an aggrandized, projected sense of the idealized self
as we imagine it to be forever, the experience of anicca comes with pain.

Is there a Vipassana student who never got up at the end of a determined sitting without at least two
small channels of the river of life flowing down his or her face?

Anicca is what we run from; anicca is what we fear; anicca is what we join forces against and attempt
to smash. Anicca is the destruction of our personal power, the loss of our world as we know it. Anicca
is what drives the world mad. But the experience of anicca, a precious and fortunate opportunity into
which one develops slowly-it is said, over lifetimes-the actual direct experience, as opposed to our
images, bugaboos, and sideways glances-the experience of anicca is a simple, clear, fact, like the

It is a release, like a dip in a healing, cool, fresh river. Now I am washed away in the river; after so
much fussing, I am torn away and alone in the current. But I can swim, or rather, float. The self I
held, I left with my towel on the shore, but I'm still alive; I haven't drowned or died. Pieces of what I
imagined I had to grip to me come floating along beside me. The current of the world is unraveling in
faces and forms. Without my will the universe unrolls, and fills my arms with muscles, my heart with
human concerns. The scintillating milky way of my back is a winking and shimmering constellation; my
body itself is a river, a continent of rivers, a flickering, vibrating, shore less ocean of currents and
channels, unfathomable, beginning less, endless. The living ride on life like the foam on the crest of a
surge on the cosmic ocean.

The experience of anicca leaves one floating on the exfoliating, impersonal truth, the ocean of life. The
flood of life need not drown us; it can instead buoy us up if we learn how to swim. The experience of
anicca is the place to plunge in and be turned into a fish, a wave, a fleck of foam on the surging
expanse of life-itself.

The experience of anicca is not the endpoint of the path of Vipassana. It is not nibbana, the
transcending of the transitory world of mind-and-matter. It is not the final goal of enlightenment. But
it is itself a critical step on the path toward that goal, and liberating in important ways. The path of
Vipassana, as taught by the Buddha, leads away from craving and aversion that derive from a rigid
self-concept, away from negativities of greed, hate, and delusion that derive from defense of the false,
ephemeral self. The path opens into the virtues and qualities produced by experienced insight. The
realization of anicca is a deep insight into ourselves and the world around us. It exposes the absurdity
of clinging to a passing life in a passing world. It relaxes the clenched, false hopes of narcissism, and
enables the flow of spontaneous identification with all other transient lives. From the experiential
realization that all things are anicca, that I am anicca, comes the deepest empathy possible: a feeling
of kinship with all beings who suffer alike from the pain aroused by the illusion of separate self; a
feeling of fellowship with all beings who yearn for liberation from the agony of separation, dissolution,

A dog without his dog tag is still a dog. I've thrown away the collar, but I've got the same old
neighborhood to patrol. The practice of Vipassana meditation leads to activation of the experience of
anicca, which in turn leads to a maturation, not an eradication, of personality. The life I thought I was
living I now know is living me, and I've got work to do. Not my work, but work. Laid out in front of me
and around me are the events with which I am ceaselessly, inevitably interacting. I can be called, but
not by the tin drum of grandiosity. I do belong, but not to a mob. I walk, but don't march. When
asked, I point out to others those buildings on a hill where I sit down to focus on the experience of
anicca as it manifests on the field of my mind and body-those buildings that took so much time and
energy to build, and which stand like a cairn on the otherwise trackless mountain of life-but which I
know will blow down in one storm or another, only to sprout up again on other mountains, among
other travelers. I point out that meditation centre on the hill as a good place to have a seasoning,
sobering experience.
Vipassana leads to a slow, cumulative social change by organizing individual lives around new sources
of well-being. It points to a sense of aliveness that is marked by a tenacious, steady investment in the
personal and the real. It weakens the call of the trumpet, and evokes the music of the wind and rain.
It makes pain more bearable than hate. It makes equanimity sweeter than excitement. It makes death
more welcome than conquest. It makes service nobler than heroism. It makes sorrow and joy run
back and forth into each other like twin rivulets intersecting, entwining, and separating again on the
same hillside. It leads to an equipoise beyond the poles of pleasure and pain.

The experience of anicca leaves no way out but the path-for the entire phenomenal world is anicca.
There can be no hope for the ambitions of the individual, despite all his narcissism and grandiosity. Yet
there can be hope. As the raindrop descends, does it know its body will be absorbed by the roots of
grass or trees, to be consumed by animals, to flow into milk, one day at last to dance in the blood of a
singing child? All is anicca; mind and body helplessly flow in personal becoming. In spite of this
current, a movement is possible towards liberation from ignorance and towards attainment of insight.
Realization of anicca catalyses further bodily discipline and mental insight, so that both mind and body
are accelerated towards their own transcendence. As the raindrop cycles through grass, animal, milk,
and child, it moves from a state of inert physicality to participation in hopeful human possibility. The
elements co-operate when orchestrated by the wisdom of the path. Striving to know anicca, meeting
and immersing in anicca, people can turn the world toward liberation.

Generosity, compassion, simplicity are the spontaneous expressions of a world view in which nothing
can be kept, suffering is a common bond, and materiality is only an obstacle to a finer trajectory of
spirit. People who have vibrated deeply in anicca know that every pocket sooner of later gets a hole.
Since nothing can be kept it might as well be shared.

The experience of anicca through the process of Vipassana meditation leads to the transformation of
narcissism and grandiosity into mature participation, service, love. It reveals individualistic life to be a
sieve. It breaks open a stone to reveal a star.

The kernel of the path is so simple it can be explained in one sentence: transcend the suffering
involved in attachment to the self-mind, body, and the world associated with them-by observing
objectively and peacefully the arising and vanishing of everything composing them, thereby cultivating
insight into their essential transience. In my own experience, I find I wander away from and back to
this core truth a million times. There are many lives I have to live, many fears I have to overcome,
many growing hands I have to guide, many companions I have to meet, and many as yet
undiscovered lakes that call to me from their hidden recesses in the wilderness to come and watch
their animals and breathe their mists, before I will be able to sit down and fix unwaveringly and finally
upon anicca. I have much to learn about this truth, but every moment of acquaintance with it grips me
in an unalterable turning.

Vipassana Meditation and Health --- Dr. J. N. Nichani

Vipassana meditation is a technique which aims at a state of consciousness in which you are aware of
the body sensations (vedana), and in which you observe these sensations in a special way. This means
observation without raga-dosa (likes-dislikes); as if you are standing on a balcony viewing the drama
of these life processes, impartially observing the mind running here and there aimlessly like a monkey
jumping from branch to branch.

Ordinarily, when we are conscious of anything, we see it with liking or disliking, love or hate, greed or
jealousy or anger and so on. When this happens again and again, it leaves behind impressions
(sankharas) in our mind. How many impressions are formed each day? We do not know, as we are
unconscious of them. The number of impressions in one life seems infinite. If past lives are also
accounted for, the impressions will be countless. However we cannot comprehend this, as the
conscious mind is limited and the unconscious is beyond our awareness.
When we are operating at the superficial conscious level, there are sometimes bursts of anger,
violence, laughing or crying spells on an individual or a mass scale; the so-called mad behaviour.
Some moments later we may feel ashamed and guilty for such behaviour and we are unable to
account for it. Actually, when one is "out of one's mind," it means that some of the infinite impressions
from the unconscious mind have surfaced and burst before one can notice them, and therefore one
gets overpowered.

Unconsciously, some of these impressions are surfacing all the time on our body and producing various
sensations. But our conscious mind, as it is occupied with so many things, does not notice them. If our
mind is concentrated, alert and silent, we become aware of these body sensations, some pleasant,
some unpleasant. If we continue to watch these without liking or disliking, scanning the body, from
the head to the feet, and from the feet up to the head, more and more impressions will surface,
producing various sensations on different parts of the body.
If this practice is followed diligently, sincerely and regularly, the time will come when these
impressions, though seemingly infinite, will go on surfacing on the body and will get exhausted. Then
there will be nothing unconscious, only pure consciousness; no parts, but wholeness. This is Vipassana
meditation. Even before this state is reached, by practising this technique, the mind is concentrated
(not roaming in all directions like a monkey), is alert (not sleepy or dreaming), is quiet and silent (no
agitation or disturbances) and is at peace for long intervals; the peace that passeth understanding.

Ordinarily there is temporary peace when one desire is fulfilled; this lasts till it is disturbed by another
desire surfacing. We attribute this short temporary peace to our obtaining that particular desired
object. So we ceaselessly struggle to satisfy all sorts of desires to get these short glimpses of peace or
happiness. Our whole life is nothing but a pursuit, a struggle, for this temporary happiness, and for
much of the time there is no peace or happiness but unhappiness, frustration and misery. But during
Vipassana meditation, it is not so; the mind is equanimous, free from craving and aversion, all the
while observing these body sensations, however pleasant or unpleasant they may be. It is not
disturbed, is silent and peaceful, and stays happy for a longer and longer duration.

As one gets more and more established in the practice of meditation, there are fewer mental
problems, and even psychosomatic disorders like hypertension, peptic ulcer, irritable bowel syndrome,
asthma and eczema get ameliorated. Vipassana meditation, therefore, leads to better health and a
happy, blissful mind. There is less mental tension and confusion, and with such a clear and calm mind,
one is able to deal easily with one's problems, thus living a merry and joyful life.

Vipassana and Psychiatry ----- Dr. K.N. Dwivedi

Dr. K.N. Dwivedi

As a teacher in Preventive and Social Medicine, I learned to appreciate that subtle cultural forces of
superstition and mystification maintained a high level of disease load in India. Meditation to me had a
similar connotation, but Professor of Psychiatry O.N. Srivastav inspired me to attend a course of
Vipassana. Probably my motive was to find effective weapons to fight the bad mystical influences on
our health culture, but to my surprise I could find no clash between the scientific way of thinking and
Vipassana. Fascinated by the psychiatric implications of this meditation technique, I joined psychiatry.
Here I do not wish to establish any theories but to point out a few links between ideas and practises of
Vipassana and that of psychiatry. Psychiatry today is a diverse discipline and varies across
psychiatrists, institutions, nations and cultures. The two so-called major schools are organic and

Dynamic psychiatry visualises psycho-social forces leading to mental illness and employs various
pedagogical psychotherapy techniques for therapeutic purposes. Behaviour therapy, therapeutic
community approach, social therapy, marital and family therapy, vector therapy, transactional
analysis, gestalt therapy, drama therapy (psychodrama, remedial drama, sociodrama), art therapy,
occupational therapy, and primal therapy are just a few examples.

In psychoanalysis the subject reports his free-associations as they occur and is helped to understand
his mental mechanisms. A student of Vipassana also finds himself free associating during meditation.
However, psychoanalysis and Vipassana differ in their attitudes towards and interpretations of the
material of free-association. In Vipassana, the emphasis is on maintaining a continuum of awareness
of somatic sensations and inculcating a neutral attitude of indifference and non-indulgence, upekkha,
in the ideational material. In psychoanalysis, the ideation material is welcome. In Vipassana the
interpretation is mainly phenomeno-logical in terms of the transitory nature, anicca, illusory nature
(creating the illusion of "I" etc.), and binding nature dukkha, of emotive processes of clinging raga,
aversion dosa and ignorance moha. In psychoanalysis, the interpretation is semantic and helps to
decode the messages from the system unconscious, revealing the universal struggle between various
forces. Objects Relation Theory recognises some of the illusory nature of ego, anatta, as most of it is
made by internalisation of objects (mother's breast, etc.). R.D. Laing's "knots" take the full leap:

Although One Is Full Inside

One Is On The Outside
Of The Inside Of The Outside
Of One's Own Inside
And By Getting Inside The Outside
One remains Empty Because
While One Is On The Inside
Even The Inside Of
The Outside Is Outside
And Inside Oneself
There Is Still Nothing
There Never Has Been
Anything Else
And There Never Will Be.

Krishnamurti offered us the phrase- "freedom from all conditioning." Behaviour therapy cares to
control conditioning and has various therapeutic applications as treatment of phobias; modification of
behaviours such as sociability of chronic schizophrenics; speech training in autistic children; training of

mentally subnormals, physically handicapped, socially inadequate control of eating, drinking, sexual
and other behaviours; contract marital therapy, biofeedback, etc. Conditioning is almost an alternative
explanation of the system unconscious and is a process of binding in a person of juxtaposed events
through the cement of emotive ingredients. In Vipassana, one works to sharpen one's perceptual
mechanisms and learns to be aware of subtle emotional processes. Conditioning requires the cement
of emotion at subtle emotive levels. Continuous awareness of the subtle emotive processes with a
neutral attitude would free oneself from conditioning.

Systematic desensitisation involves reciprocal inhibition, since relaxation and anxiety are incompatible.
The subject is taught to relax and is presented either in reality or in imagination with specific anxietyprovoking stimuli in a systematic manner. As he faces them in a relaxed state he learns not to react
with anxiety. It thus resembles Vipassana. Some of the physiological and biochemical measurements
on meditation support the obvious hypothesis of built-in relaxation. Bio-feedback studies confirm the
controllability of autonomic, electroencephalographic and emotive processes through awareness.

Awareness of feelings or sharpening of sensitivity is one of the major tools in group therapy, where the
subject is helped by others who keep reminding him of his current emotional state, so that he can
evolve his own monitoring equipment. However, there is a qualitative difference in the sensitivity of
the "radars" built through Vipassana and through group and other therapies. A group "radar" picks up
imageries and such gross lump sum feelings as hatred, anger, sadness etc. Vipassana "radar," on the
other hand, continuously concentrates on subtle somatic sensations beyond the cloud of imageries,
ideation and lump sum feelings. One learns to recognise the illusory and transitory nature of "cloud"

There is an association between subjective mental states and peripheral activity. Cannon emphasised
the influence of the central nervous system on peripheral mechanisms, while James and Lange
emphasised the influence of peripheral activity on the central subjective state. Because of these
associations, anxiety can become self-perpetuating. Someone may insult me once, but the idea (or the
memory) that someone insulted me can keep me troubled repeatedly for a very long period. The idea
breeds peripheral changes and peripheral changes feed the idea; the vicious cycle thus goes on.
Vipassana aims to break the cycle by awareness of the peripheral activity and appreciation of its
transitory nature.

Primal therapy postulates encapsulation of traumatic memories in somatic sensations and guides
through the path of somatic sensation, recollection of the primal traumatic experience, reliving the
suffering and freedom. It has its parallel in abreaction. This attitude of confrontation is the basic tool
of Vipassana where the student confronts his somatic sensation, such as pain in the knee. However, he
is not advised to indulge in the story behind the pain. Instead he stays face to face with pain to
appreciate its illusory and transitory nature. Reality therapy, existential therapy and many other
approaches in psychiatry recognise the value of facing the painful reality as it is.

The reason why Vipassana ignores dwelling on the "worm in the apple" (as in primal therapy) is
because of its frame of reference of reality, i.e. sensations and not ideation or imaginations. Reality is
here and now, the rest is illusion. But most of our lives are lived in illusion. Vipassana provides the
training opportunity to live in reality. Gestalt therapy takes up this issue of "here and now", as well as
many other principles found in Vipassana (e.g. continuum of awareness, confrontation, etc.). It differs
from Vipassana by being a cafeteria-like approach, using techniques to deal with ideational material,
fantasies, dreams and psychomotor behaviours, etc.
Client-centred Rogerian therapy is non-directive and finds empathetic and compassionate orientation
of the therapist most therapeutic. Freudians view the basic human nature (id) as instinctively selfish
while Vipassana reveals compassion when one gets rid of accumulated impurities. George Kelly
(originator of Personal Construct Theory) constructed man as basically an investigator. A doctor-

patient relationship accordingly is analogous to the relationship between a guide and research scholar.
Vipassana provides each of its research scholars a superb laboratory for scientific explorations of
physical and mental phenomena, life and death.
Organic psychiatry with its phenomeno-logical orientation explores and manipulates physical
causation, hereditary influences and biochemical changes associated with mental illnesses. For
example, in schizophrenic and affective (depressive and manic) disorders, the levels and/or ratios of
Neurotransmitters are found to be disturbed. Neurotransmitters are biochemical agents which regulate
and are involved in the transmission of messages or impulses through the nervous system, e.g.
Dopamine, Noradrenaline, Acetylcholine, Serotinine, etc. Their levels and ratios may be influenced by
hereditary, dietary, immunological and many other mechanisms. Along with Professor Udupa, the
Director of the Institute of Medical Sciences, Varanasi, and others we conducted several studies on
students of Vipassana and found definite changes in the levels of many of these neurotransmitters
after a ten-day course of meditation. However, the study did not have a control group to assess the
effect of dietary changes. The electrophysiological changes in Vipassana demand further exploration of
possible relationships between the consequences of electroplexy and Vipassana, influences of
Vipassana on epilepsy, sleep, dreams, etc.

Psychiatry, however, cannot be replaced by Vipassana, nor Vipassana by psychiatry. They differ in their
terms of reference and value systems. Vipassana is not used for treatment, treatment may be a byproduct. The desire to get treated may become a hindrance on the path of Vipassana. However, a
treated person may have improved capacity to undertake Vipassana. Vipassana can reduce the
development of mental illness in society and therefore reduces the need for psychiatry.

Before and After: Five Case Studies of Improvement in Mental Health, by Dr. Raman Khosla
Vipassana is a scientific method to purify the mind, by observation of the interaction between mind
and matter by meditators within themselves. All the benefits seen in a Vipassana meditator are the
direct results of a pure mind and are proportionate to the degree of purity.
From the Vipassana point of view, mental disorders are the result of the accumulation of large
numbers of mental impurities in the domain of craving and aversion. All persons whose minds are not
totally purified are seen as having some degree of mental disorder. The difference between an
individual with and without a mental disorder as defined in psychiatric terms is only a matter of degree
of these defilements. The defilements in the aversion spectrum include: anger, hatred, ill will,
animosity, irritability, restlessness, anxiety, sadness, fear, guilt, inferiority and jealousy; while those in
the craving spectrum include passion, ego, greed, arrogance, self-indulgence, possessiveness and
Many persons with mental disorders have undergone Vipassana courses to date. Special
considerations given to such persons include: prior preparation in certain cases, accompaniment by a
family member during the course, relaxation of meditation timings, and extra supervision by the
course guide. A ten-day Vipassana meditation course is only a beginning for the eradication of the
mental defilements in the individual. It is absolutely essential for the meditator to continue his or her
daily practice even after the course and to sit follow-up courses. If the person continues to do this,
there is no doubt that sooner rather than later the mental defilements will get reduced, thereby
causing the individual's mental disorder to show marked improvement.
Five cases of individuals with mental disorders are presented here to emphasize the change in these
persons due to the impact of Vipassana. An attempt is made at the end of each case report to briefly
highlight the dynamics behind the improvement as seen from the Vipassana point of view.
Psychological parameters studied in the individual before Vipassana and one year after Vipassana were
as follows:
1. Personality-based hardiness index which measures the personality characteristics and dynamics

2. Symptom checklist which measures the psychological and physiological

3. Hamilton Depression Scale
4. Ways of Coping Questionnaire which measures the individual's coping to stress.
In all these tests, the lower the scores on these scales, the greater is the improvement in the persons

Case Study One: Alcohol Dependence

Mr. X, a well-educated, unmarried man in his mid-20s, was alcohol dependent for over seven years,
although his father, also an alcoholic, had died young. Over the past two years, he wanted to give up
alcohol because of his health and financial problems as well as loss of job, but was unsuccessful. He
even attempted detoxification with the help of doctors and alone, stayed at a rehabilitation centre,
attended AA (Alcoholics Anonymous), and undertook various spiritual trips, but he could never keep
off alcohol for more than a month.
In his own words: "I was fed up because the Devil got me each time I started thinking that now it is in
my control. I started believing what others said, 'Once an alcoholic, always an alcoholic.' I even
thought of suicide but did not attempt it, thinking of what would happen to my aged mother after me."
Mr. X took his first Vipassana course immediately after the detoxification, as well as two more courses
in the next one a half years. Since the first course, he has been totally off alcohol, has a stable job,
has no sadness, and is optimistic about his future: "I was ignorant as long as I blamed circumstances
or alcohol for my problem. Though AA taught me to accept total responsibility for my alcoholism, I felt
even more miserable on the non-meeting days, because I was drinking. Even now I do feel an
occasional craving to drink, especially when I see my colleagues drinking, but I can control it. The
reason is that Vipassana has made me realize that my craving is not to alcohol, but to my own
pleasant sensations which alcohol induces in me, and an aversion to the unpleasant ones arising
during its withdrawal."
His test scores are:
Test Pre-Vipassana 1 Year Later
Personality Hardiness 82 46
Symptom Checklist 194 78
Depression Scale 14 4
Coping Scale 116 74
An alcohol drinker develops craving to retain the pleasant sensations caused by alcohol and to remove
the unpleasant sensations caused by its absence. It is not alcohol which is the problem, but craving
towards one's own sensations which is the root of the problem. As a drinker develops in the technique
of Vipassana, he or she becomes more equanimous to both the pleasant and unpleasant sensations,
thereby breaking the "vicious cycle" of craving. The old stock of alcohol-related craving will then arise,
producing sensations. If one continues to be equanimous to them, they will also pass away, thereby
putting an end to the individual's dependence on alcohol.

Case Study Two: Depression

Mrs. A, a married lady in her mid-40s, and an active member of a religious sect, had been feeling very
sad for over three years. The onset was triggered by the accidental death of her father and brother.
Initially she became markedly anxious, would weep and feel guilty, saying that she had wasted her
life. Over the past two years, she had lost interest in most daily activities, was worried about her
teenage children, and had pessimistic thinking and insomnia. "I was doing all my daily chores because

I had to do them", she said, "I became even more religious and started reading the Gt daily. While
reading, I felt a bit better, but within hours I would again feel miserable."
She consulted many private psychiatrists who gave her anti-depressants, "With them, I would feel
about 60% better; but whenever I tried reducing the medicines, I would again feel terribly low."
Very willing when told about Vipassana, she sat her first course over a year ago and benefited a lot.
Regularly practising at home, after one year, she felt about 90% better, "I have never felt so well in
the past four years. My life is totally changed with Vipassana. I had heard and read all along about
equanimity in the Gt and even considered myself to be a very equanimous person, but the first time
I faced a major disappointment in my life, I broke down. Then all my religious knowledge did not help
me much. However, Vipassana has now made me realize that the true meaning of religion lies in the
practice of being equanimous in the face of all the ups and downs of life."
Her test scores are as follows:
Test Pre-Vipassana 1 Year Later
Personality Hardiness 74 52
Symptom Checklist 226 60
Depression Scale 20 4
Coping Scale 92 44
Defilements related to sadness and anxiety with the base of unpleasant sensations was the core
problem of this lady. Mental diversion in the form of reading, alteration by means of chemicals or
alteration in the level of awareness through medicines provided only temporary relief. The root of her
trouble lay in a lack of equanimity with unpleasant sensations caused by anxiety and depression,
thereby causing her to continue to tie more knots of depression. With regular practice of Vipassana,
she became more equanimous to the unpleasant sensations within, and her depression automatically

Case Study Three: Anxiety, Panic Disorder

Mr. B, a 19-yr. old student, above average academically, studying in first year medical school and
staying in the hostel, spent most of the first year roaming with friends, bunking college and seeing
movies. As a result, he failed his first year exams. This was a major blow to his self-confidence, as his
friends had passed the exams. For over one year, B was anxious, worrying about how to tell his
parents the news, was not able to concentrate on anything or study; had a heavy head and could not
sleep well. He filled out his exam application form twice again, but did not appear. Thinking about the
exam or how to tell his parents the truth would give him panic attacks.
He consulted a private psychiatrist who gave him an anxiolytic medication which kept him dull and
drowsy for most of the day so that he could not study. His friends and seniors also tried to counsel him
but, "None of their advice helped me become less tense. I realized that I was becoming dependent on
the medicine and hence, I was looking for some natural way to solve this problem."
B sat his first Vipassana course over one year ago and another one recently. Six months ago he
passed his first year exam. He has been on no medicine since his first course. In his own words: "My
concentration in my studies has improved tremendously thanks to Vipassana. My tensions and sleep
problem are back to normal. I am a much happier person now than ever before. I recommend
Vipassana to all students who have concentration problems in their studies."
His test scores are:
Test Pre-Vipassana 1 Year Later
Personality Hardiness 62 40
Symptom Checklist 110 53
Depression Scale 6 2
Coping Scale 80 54

The vicious cycle of accumulated mental reactions of aversion to the unpleasant sensations triggered
off by the panic attacks was the central theme of this person's problem. As his equanimity increased
due to daily practice of Vipassana, the anxiety-related defilements automatically decreased to a
significant extent.

Case Study Four: Obsessive- Compulsive Disorder

Mr. Y, a 20-yr. old post-graduate science student with a pre-morbidly obsessive personality, had been
having a problem for four years. It started in 11th grade and progressed relentlessly, "The past one
and a half years have been hell for me, as I hardly go to college due to my problems."
He had multiple obsessive thoughts, doubts, imageries and ruminations about almost all daily
activities, with compulsions which markedly prolonged his daily schedule. Dirt, sex and
mortality/morbidity occupied most of his obsessions, with washing and touching being his predominant
compulsions. He would get obsessive impulses to harm people or break things occasionally, which
would make him agitated and later cry. Adequate dose trials of anti-depressants and clomipramine by
private psychiatrists helped only marginally.
Y sat his first Vipassana course 14 months ago. Before that, he was taught Anapana to reduce his
restlessness during the course. He sat his third course recently. Now he has been admitted to an
engineering college and feels more than 90% better, being off of all medicines. He says: "Earlier I
tackled my inner thoughts wrongly by thinking about them or trying to solve them. Both would
increase my anxiety.
Suppressing my impulses only lead to more restlessness. I kept on tying new knots every moment in
the process. The fundamental change with Vipassana is that now I have learnt how to leave these
thoughts alone, whatever their content be. And working with my sensations, I realize that all those
disturbing thoughts come from the depths to the surface of my mind to go out, provided I watch them
without reacting. Now I realize how I had become a slave of my own mind."
His test scores are:
Test Pre-Vipassana 1 Year Later
Personality Hardiness 102 64
Symptom Checklist 144 58
Depression Scale 12 2
Coping Scale 124 86
The obsessive phenomena produced anxiety and associated unpleasant sensations in this individual.
Trying to solve the problem of one thought by another only kept increasing the anxiety because the
body sensations were totally ignored. When these unpleasant sensations exceeded a threshold level,
he indulged in compulsive physical acts. Through Vipassana he learned to try not to remove these
obsessive thoughts but accept them, giving more attention to the accompanying sensations and
observing them with equanimity. This is how he managed to not generate new obsessive reactions and
allowed the old stock of these reactions to arise and pass away, thereby giving him much relief.
Case Study Five: Borderline
Personality Disorder
Mr. P. a 22-yr. old unmarried well-educated man, had a problem of showing extremes of emotion,
especially angry outbursts which consequently strained all his relationships, "I tried to keep myself
busy, but whenever I was alone I felt lonely and had to take a drink. This has been my nature since
many years. I have tried specially to reduce my anger but in vain. I sometimes felt like ending my life
but could not gather courage enough."

He was much better for a year when on a combination of lithium and carbamazepine, but, "When I
started to reduce it and stop it, the same complaints started coming again. My psychiatrist told me I
may have to take medicines lifelong and this shook me up."
P took two Vipassana courses in the span of five months and has hardly missed a day of practice in
the past year, "My blaming others stopped. I realized that the cause of my own misery was the
constant craving and aversion which made me continuously judge others or myself as all good or all
bad. My expectations of others when not fulfilled would cause me to fight with them, break up and
then suffer even more. Now my anger and sadness are reduced considerably. Most importantly, I am
off medicines. This is just the beginning for me. As our teacher puts it, it is a long journey within, and
I am experiencing its benefits."
His test scores are:
Test Pre-Vipassana 1 Year Later
Personality Hardiness 104 76
Symptom Checklist 208 122
Depression Scale 16 6
Coping Scale 112 66
Craving and aversion to sensations resulting from labelling people and objects as good or bad was the
crux of his problem. Alcohol helped in reducing the unpleasant sensations accompanying the feelings
of sadness by reducing the level of awareness towards them. Verbal and physical outbursts were
merely external manifestations of these mental defilements of frustration, anger, and restlessness.
Learning to deal with unpleasant sensations with equanimity has been the major gain so far in this
person which has started to change his personality.

It is evident from the above case studies that regular proper practice of Vipassana meditation will help
in alleviating mental disorders. However, it requires a lot of patience and diligence on the part of the
meditator and professional psychiatric advice, in addition to guidance by a qualified Vipassana teacher.

Vipassana and Health - by Dr. B.G. Savla

Health may be defined as a perfect state of equilibrium of body and mind, where all the physiological
activities take place without impairment or disturbance.
Disease is a state of dis-ease, discomfort produced due to a loss of balance between body and mind.
Genesis of Ill-Health or Aetiology of Disease.
Out of ignorance (avijja), one does not understand the impermanent nature of the body and the mind.
One therefore constantly goes on reacting (sankhara) to the subtle contact (phassa) of matter with
the mind, resulting in very subtle pleasant or unpleasant experiences or sensations (vedana), and
generating craving or aversion (tanha).
This tanha causes disturbances in the balance of life, generating unrest or discomfort at a very subtle
level. This is the beginning of ill-heath, or the origin of disease - which is not noticed by an ordinary
person (putthujjana) whose mind is not properly trained.
This habit-pattern of blind reactions continues, and cravings and aversions multiply, turning into
clinging (upadana), which makes the process of becoming (bhava) continue. As this cycle of
becoming, the cycle of existence, keeps rotating, so all the miseries of life continue to be experienced,
including disease, old-age and death.

Examples in the Culakammavibhanga Sutta, one of the Buddha's discourses, explain how those who
harm others will sow the seeds of future misery at the mental and physical level, and those not
harming others will enjoy sound health.
Today, everyone in the present world is full of ignorance (avijja) about the true impermanent nature of
existence, and hence living foolishly, constantly living with blind reactions and creating mental and
physical disturbances. Therefore, everyone falls ill now and then.
The apparent causes of illness may be:

Physical causes


Accidental causes


Mental causes.

Mental causes may manifest as:

a) Purely mental illness of various grades from Neurosis to Psychosis. This may be stimulative or
b) Psychosomatic illness affecting one or more organs or any physiological systems of the body.
Another way of looking at the origin of disease is that it is the result (Vipaka) of Kammas, either past
or present.
Present Kammas may be:
1. taking improper food
2. use of intoxicants
3. exposure to extremes of climate
4. prolonged physical or mental strain
5. inadequate rest
6. tensions, worries etc.
The Buddha classified sick persons in three ways in the Anguttara Nikaya and Paati of Abhidhamma:
1. A sick person who is certain of regaining health in due time, even though he does not take any
medicine or treatment.
2. A sick person who is certain of failing to make a recovery, and dying from the illness, no matter to
what extent he may take medicines or treatment.
3. A sick person who will recover if he takes the right medicine and treatment, but who will fail to
recover and die, if he fails to take the right medicine and treatment.
It is extremely difficult for us to decide which kind of sick person a patient is.
Therefore, all types of sick persons should be given right attendance, proper treatment and expert

Whatever the cause or causes of illness, disease is a feeling of discomfort (unpleasant, gross, solidified
sensations), in any part of the body, or the whole body. Disease produces impairment of the working
of one or more physiological systems of the body. This gives rise to various different types of
symptoms and signs, needing either simple or complicated investigative procedures.

The Buddha, described as the greatest healer of beings (Mahabhisaka), advised the Middle Path as the
right way of living.

Therefore, whenever necessary, i.e. whenever disease disturbs daily work, or hampers your
meditation, take the medication of whatever "pathy" you have faith in.
However, one has to learn to endure distressful conditions, in spite of treatment, knowing the law of
change, of impermanence. So, howsoever slight or grave physical pain may be, it should not become
mental pain or grief or mental suffering. One has to learn this. This requires mental training.
In any situation, one should try to maintain equanimity, the balance of the mind. In the case of
disease, tranquillity and equipoise of mind will help and hasten healing.
It should be very clear that Vipassana is not for curing illness. Vipassana meditation is a science to
experience the reality about oneself, culminating in the realization of Absolute Truth, which is beyond
mental-material phenomena. It is a process of purification of the mind. As the mind is cleansed of
defilements, various somatic or bodily manifestations of disease, due to defilements in the psyche,
disappear or are alleviated as a by-product.
Vipassana is a path, establishing oneself in equanimity on the basis of physical, bodily sensations, and
knowing by direct experience (panna), the impermanent nature (anicca) of these sensations, the
impermanent nature of the universe, and the impermanent nature of existence. This equanimity will
always help in the vicissitudes of life; during trying times, in the serious suffering of ill health, in lifethreatening situations. Even at the moment of death, equanimity and understanding anicca are bound
to help, to maintain peace and remain fearless and fully conscious when leaving this life.
Vipassana is not a remedy for disease, yet it is a "cure-all", cutting off the cycle of birth and death, the
cycle of suffering. Vipassana is the noble way to real peace, the real happiness of nibbana.
Goenkaji's teacher, Sayagyi U Ba Khin, in his research work at IMC Rangoon, noticed that very
stubborn diseases, progressive, crippling, degenerative conditions, or incurable ailments have
vanished as side-effects of the practice of Vipassana. This has been well documented in his booklet
"Real Values of Vipassana Meditation."
As mentioned earlier, ordinary ignorant persons, not knowing the true nature of impermanence
(anicca) of suffering (dukkha), keep rolling in suffering, thus multiplying suffering (dukkha samudaya).
A wise person, knowing anicca at a personal, direct, experiential level, makes this suffering a tool,
develops equanimity, and ultimately achieves the end of suffering (dukkha nirodha).

Case Histories.
1. A woman of about seventy, well established in Vipassana meditation and practising more than two
hours daily, experienced severe pain in the chest and other symptoms. The clinical diagnosis was heart
attack, and this was confirmed by ECG as myocardinal infarction. The pain was such that she felt that
her life was threatened, that death was near, and she wondered what to do. She decided to take
refuge in Dhamma, and started meditating with awareness of anicca, with sati sampajanna.
The doctor and others present thought that she had become unconscious. Suddenly, the room become
quiet and peaceful, and all present felt the atmosphere of peace. After some time, she came out of
deep meditation. She said she felt that ill-will and hatred had left her, and that she felt full of love and
compassion, peace and goodwill.
Here, the death-heralding pain of a heart attack, the unpleasant sensation (dukkha vedena) was made
a tool to come out of suffering successfully, as she established herself in dukkha-nirodha-gaminipatipada.
2. A middle aged woman was travelling by air, when suddenly the weather became stormy and the
plane started wobbling. The passengers were afraid they would die, and started to panic, shouting and
crying etc. This woman, a serious meditator, realized the gravity of the situation, but did not generate
feelings of insecurity and started silently meditating.

After a while the storm passed away and no-one was hurt. In such an extremely perilous situation,
she could maintain inner peace with experience of anicca and equanimity.
3. A middle-aged man was severely burnt on his fingers by accidentally holding a very hot iron
hammer. Blisters appeared. His hands were treated with cold water immersion and he also started
meditating. After a few hours the excruciating pain subsided and the next day the blisters disappeared
as if nothing had happened. The doctor attending thought this injury would take ten to fifteen days to
subside, but within twenty-four hours no trace of the burn injury remained. After about ten to twelve
days, the burnt skin, which was unnoticeable, started to peel off, as a reminder of the burns.
4. A man with a typical case of heart-attack started meditating. He was very restless and in severe
agony, but kept on trying for about two days without giving up. After that, the symptoms started
subsiding and the mind could remain with the breath, which was his object of concentration.
Experts examined him on the fourth day, and an ECG showed an attack of coronary thrombosis. On
physical examination, the cardiologist said no medicine was necessary. Repeated check-ups were
made by various cardiologists, and ECGs were done every three months. All gave the same result as
the first. He fully recovered after a six-month rest, and was advised to forget about the attack. He did
not have to take any medicines, and could lead a life as he had lived prior to the attack, doing his
normal work.
5. In a case of unknown aetiology, a middle-aged male, a good meditator, developed loss of muscle
power. Experts diagnosed it as a progressive, crippling, paralysing disease. After two months of
treatment and six months of rest, full recovery took place. He continued to meditate during the illness.
Experts then said no medication was necessary and he could live a normal life.
Practising Vipassana Meditation is a right way of living, in illness and in health.

Vipassana Meditation:A Positive Mental Health Measure, Lt. Col. M.B. Pethe and Dr. R.M.

Vipassana meditation is a scientific technique of self-exploration: a system of self-transformation by
self-observation, a healing by observation of and participation in the universal laws of nature. Its
theoretical basis, health potential and practical applications are discussed and reviewed in this paper.
Key Words: Vipassana Meditation, Positive Mental Health, Self-Actualization, Transpersonal

Health, as defined by the World Health Organization, is a state of complete physical, mental and social
well-being and not merely an absence of disease or infirmity. This is considered to be an idealistic
goal, setting out the standard of positive health, with due emphasis on the promotion and protection
of health. "Health for All by 2000 A.D.", is the main social target set the by the 30th World Health
Assembly14. Health, therefore, is a dynamic concept and can be described as a multidimensional
process involving the well-being of an individual in the context of his or her environment.

This presentation shall deal primarily with the mental dimension of health since it is the "mind" which
is the central directing force of one's entire life and activity, and also because every health disorder is
affected directly or indirectly by psychological factors. It is truly said that mind matters most.
In Indian parlance, health is a positive concept: "swasthya" means being oneself. Indian
introspectionists over millennia have produced a rich harvest of profound psychological insights, which
needs to be reinterpreted in the contemporary context and the currently familiar idiom; for example,
nibbna or "nirvana" by Gotama Buddha as the burning out of passions or mental impurities;
"mokha" by Lord Krishna as freedom from conditioning and constraints of all kinds; "sahaja" by
Guru Nanak as one's nature: literally born along with oneself 7. Various austerity and self-control
measures and meditative approaches have been detailed in their treatises, to enable one to attain the
desired goal of self-realization or self-liberation, called in modern parlance a higher psychic state or
transpersonal consciousness.
Abraham Maslow6, generally regarded as the modern founder of transpersonal psychology, postulated
the concept of "self-actualization", which emphasizes the importance of maximal growth and
development of human potential. It has also been equated with such terms as self-realization, optimal
functioning, psychological health and individual autonomy. All these imply the highest stage of
personality development or the optimal personality functioning and positive mental health. Shostrom8
describes self-actualization as an ongoing process of growth towards experiencing one's potential in
terms of creative expression, interpersonal effectiveness and fulfilment in living. Vipassana is a way
and means to such self-actualization or self-realization.

Vipassana Meditation11
Also known as Insight Awareness or Mindfulness Meditation, Vipassana is a very ancient meditation
technique of India, laudatory references to which are found even in the Rigveda. Long lost to
humanity, it was rediscovered twenty-five centuries ago by Gotama Buddha. Although Vipassana
contains the core of what was later called Buddhism, it is not an organized religion, requires no
conversion and is open to students of any faith, nationality, colour or background.
To learn Vipassana, one is required to take a ten-day residential course under a qualified authorized
teacher. Meditation teacher Shri S.N. Goenka and about two hundred assistant teachers trained by
him, hailing from various parts of the world and practically all walks of life, are discharging this
onerous responsibility voluntarily and selflessly.
There are in all thirty-one permanent Vipassana Centres across the globe in countries
like India (14), Nepal (2), Sri Lanka (1),Myanmar (1), Thailand (1), Japan (1), the United
States (4),Australia (4), New Zealand (1), France (1) and the United Kingdom (1). The main Centre is
the Vipassana International Academy, located at Dhamma Giri, on the outskirts of the town
of Igatpuri in theNasik district, about 135 kilometres from Bombay.
Vipassana is a Pli term and it means insight, to see things as they really are. It is a scientific
technique to explore the laws of nature (called Dhamma), within the framework of one's own mind
and body. During the training period of ten days, the participants follow a basic code of morality, which
includes celibacy and abstention from all intoxicants. For the first three and a half days, one is trained
to focus one's attention on breathing (Anapana) and thereafter, one learns to examine the reality
pertaining to oneself, systematically and dispassionately. One realizes, by direct experience, the
scientific laws that operate on one's thoughts, feelings, judgements and sensations. One also learns to

live in conformity with these laws, a life full of peace and harmony, a really healthy and happy life.

Mechanism and Psychological Effects

The teachings of the Buddha embody "Abhidhamma", a very systematic and intricately laid out
psychology, which presents a set of concepts for understanding mental activity and methods for
healing mental disorder. It differs markedly from the contemporary psychotherapeutic outlook. In this
model of mental activity, every mental state is composed of a set of properties of mental factors,
which gives it its distinctive characteristics. There are 52 basic perceptual, cognitive and affective
categories of these properties. The basic dichotomy in this analysis of mental factors is between pure,
wholesome or healthy and impure, unwholesome or unhealthy mental properties; healthy mental
states are antagonistic to unhealthy ones, inhibiting them. Vipassana meditation aims to eradicate
these unhealthy properties from the mind; the operational definition of mental health is their complete
absence, as in the case of an arahanta (saint)4.
"Everything that arises in the mind is accompanied by a concomitant physical sensation", said the
Buddha. This interrelationship is the key to the practice of Vipassana meditation. Vipassana trains the
concentrated attention to follow the mechanics of mental processing with the base of physical
sensations, in a detached fashion. This perspective of an observer allows the controlled release of
mental contents such as craving and aversion, past and future, in a seemingly endless stream of
memories, wishes, thoughts, conversations, scenes, desires, dreads and lusts. Thousands and
thousands of emotionally-driven pictures of every kind rise to the surface of the mind and pass away
without provoking a reaction, while simultaneously anchoring one in concrete, contemporary reality1.
The mind is deconditioned with meditation altering the process of conditioning per se, so that it is no
longer a prime determinant of future acts4. A refinement of awareness occurs and one responds
consciously to life situations thereby becoming free from limitations, which were forged by mere
reactions to them. One's life becomes characterized by increased awareness, reality-orientation, nondelusion, self-control and peace1. Such a person is able to make quick decisions, correct and sound
judgement and concerted effort-mental capabilities which definitely contribute to success in
contemporary life10.
Vipassana is not merely an exercise to be performed in the special environment of a meditation
retreat. When a ten-day course is over, meditators take the tool home with them. The path of
Vipassana is a continuous, disciplined pursuit of this experiential gnosis throughout life; it is a human
capacity and a personal choice. Through Vipassana, one can transcend body-mind or even East-West
dualism and shake hands with ethical rootedness, cultivated mindfulness and wisdom in all its
enduring forms2.

Vipassana, Health and Healers: A Review

Considerable data is available, documenting the various biopsychosocial benefits that accrue from the
practice of Vipassana meditation. It indicates the vast therapeutic potential that Vipassana has. For
instance, many case report studies have been recorded on the positive effects of Vipassana in different
psychosomatic disorders such as chronic pain, headaches, bronchial asthma, hypertension, peptic
ulcer, psoriasis, etc., and so also in different disorders including alcoholism and drug addiction.
Beneficial aspects of Vipassana have also been studied in special population groups such as students,

prisoners and police personnel, besides individuals suffering from chronic pain and various mental
disorders 11,12,13.
However healing-not disease cure, but the essential healing of human suffering-is the purpose of
Vipassana. Suffering springs from ignorance of one's true nature. Insight, truth- experiential truthalone frees one2. "Know thyself", all wise persons have advised. Vipassana is a practical way to
examine the reality of one's own mind and body, to uncover and solve whatever problems lie hidden
there, to develop unused potential and to channel it for one's own good and the good of others5.
All people need healing, most particularly healers. "Physician heal thyself", is a well-known phrase.
Freud and Jung insisted that analysts be analysed. The very vulnerability and compassion that sets the
healer on a lifelong journey to heal, coupled to the constant exposure to human suffering, requires a
treatment of its own. Vipassana is acceptable and relevant to healers of diverse disciplines because it
is free of dogma, experientially based and focussed on human suffering and relief. With its practice,
healers are able to deepen their autonomy and self-knowledge, at the same time augmenting their
ability to be a professional anchor to others in the tumult of their lives. Vipassana is verily the path of
all-healing, including self-healing and other-healing2.

A Model for Clinical Application

The clinical utility of Vipassana is more likely to be in terms of providing a general psychological
pattern of positive mental states rather than a response to any particular problem. Generally, the
conventional psychotherapies are generated as treatments for the latter. Many therapists11,12,13,
who are themselves meditators, teach "Anapana"-a preparatory step in the training of Vipassana, to
their clients. The clients may be suffering from various neurotic, psychosomatic and personality
disorders including addictions, and Anapana is taught as a supplementary form of treatment, with a
good clinical response.
Before commencing the formal training in Anapana, the therapist explains to the patient its potential
benefits, particularly relaxation. This helps reduce the patient's apprehension and enables him or her
to co-operate and participate actively in the treatment. In addition, it is necessary to ensure that the
physical environment is one that will facilitate relaxation; the room should be quiet and free from
interruptions and the patient's couch should be reasonably comfortable.
The patient is asked to lie comfortably on the couch, close his eyes and observe, that is, cultivate
awareness, of his respiration at the entrance of his nostrils-whether in-breath or out-breath, deep or
shallow, fast or slow; natural breath, bare breath and only breath. When his mind wanders, the
patient is asked to passively disregard the intrusion and repeatedly focus his attention on his breath,
without getting upset or disturbed about the drift of his mind.
Two things happen. One-his mind gets concentrated on the flow of respiration. Two-he becomes aware
of the relationship between his mental states and the flow of the respiration; that whenever there is
agitation in the mind-anger, hatred, fear, passion, etc.-the natural flow of respiration gets affected and
disturbed. He thus learns to simply observe and remain alert, vigilant and equanimous.
The patient is advised to continue practising the technique on his own, twice daily-in the morning and
in the evening, each session lasting for about thirty minutes. The therapist reviews the progress of his
patient from time to time, simultaneously counselling and motivating him to undertake a regular tenday Vipassana meditation course. The patient is thus encouraged to continue to strive for his personal
autonomy9, that is, to take personal responsibility of his own health and well-being.

Vipassana's ability to tranquillize the human mind, changing its turbulence to calmness with increased
vitality, makes it a positive mental health measure and an excellent human potential development
method. The meditator becomes free to live for higher values, richer goals: loving-kindness,
compassion, sympathetic joy and peacefulness. Vipassana thus leads people from narcissism to
mature, social love, to a life of altruism3 and this personal transformation becomes the catalyst for
social change and development.
More scientific research needs to be pursued on the role of Vipassana, both as a self-regulation
strategy for specific psychotherapeutic and psychophysiological aims and as a discipline and way of life
for deep self-exploration and transformation. The various psychophysiological changes with Vipassana
ought to be studied with the aid of modern sophisticated instruments. Also, long-term prospective
studies on meditators, besides multicentred controlled clinical trials of this technique, need to be
conducted to clarify which individual types and health disorders respond to and benefit from the
practice of Vipassana. Such endeavours will make "Health for All" a more realistic proposition.

1. Fleischman P.R., "The Therapeutic Action of Vipassana" and "Why I Sit," Buddhist Publication
Society, Kandy, Sri Lanka, 1986.
2. Fleischman P.R., "Vipassana Meditation: Healing the Healer" and "The Experience of
Impermanence," Vipassana Research Institute, Igatpuri, India, 1991, 3-15
3. Goenka, S.N., "Altruism: Quintessence of Religion, in: Issues of Biomedical Ethics" - Proceedings of
the Festival of Life International Congress, December 1988, Bombay; Editors: Vas C.J. & de Souza
E.J., McMillan India Ltd., Delhi, 1990, 95-102.
4. Goleman D., "Meditation and Consciousness: An Asian Approach to Mental Health," American
Journal of Psychotherapy, 1977, 30: 41-54.
5. Hart W., "The Art of Living": Vipassana Meditation as taught by S.N. Goenka, Harper and Row, New
York, 1987.
6. Maslow A.H., "Motivation and Personality," Harper and Row, New York, 1954
7. Neki J.S., "Psychotherapy in India," Indian Journal Psychiatry, 1977, 19(2): 1-10
8. Shostrom E.L., "Comments on Test Review: The Personal Orientation Inventory," Journal of
Counselling Psychology, 1973, 20: 479-481
9. Surya N.C., "Personal Autonomy and Instrumental Accuracy, in: Psychotherapeutic Processes,"

Editors: Kapur M., Murthy V.N., Sathyavathi K., & Kapur R.L., N.I.M.H.A.N.S., Bangalore, India, 1979,
10. Thray Sithu Sayagyi U Ba Khin, "The Real Values of True Buddhist Meditation," Buddha Sasana
Council Press, Yegu, Rangoon,Burma, 1962
11. Vipassana Research Institute: A Reader: "International Seminar on Vipassana Meditation,"
December 1986, Igatpuri, India, 1986
12. Vipassana Research Institute: A Reader: "Seminar on Vipassana Meditation, Relief from
Addictions, Better Health," November 1989, Igatpuri, India, 1990.
13. Vipassana Research Institute: A Reader: "International Seminar on Vipassana Meditation and
Health," November 1990, Igatpuri,India, 1990.
14. World Health Organization, "Health for All," Sr. No. 1, Geneva, 1978


Integrating Vipassana with Naturopathy- Some Experiences, by Dr. Jay Sanghvi

In this paper, I would like to share some of our experiences at the Nature Cure Centre, Bhuj (Gujarat),
of integrating Vipassana meditation with naturopathy.
After working with pure naturopathy for many years and adding Anapana meditation with the nature
cure regime, we began advising patients to take a course of Vipassana before admission, during
treatment or after treatment, as per the need. It has been observed over the years that:

Meditation hastens the healing process.

The patient's capacity to endure suffering increases.
Increase in equanimity reduces the agony of incurable patients in the face of imminent death.
Meditation changes the total outlook towards life and illness.
In most cases, the role of mind in the genesis of disease becomes evident.
Patients suffering from many types of incurable diseases are relieved beyond their expectations.

7. Patients suffering from mental diseases like depression, neurosis, psychosis, schizophrenia, etc., are
also helped when we combine Vipassana with other treatments.
8. Patients with chronic renal disease (and even failure), who were on dialysis or who had been
advised to have kidney transplants, showed improvement with nature cure and Vipassana.
Before I substantiate the above findings, I would like to give a general picture of
our work.
We have been practising naturopathy in a hospital with twenty beds for the last twenty-two years.
After practising allopathy for twelve years, we switched over to naturopathy. After five years we added
Vipassana and Anapana as a part of the therapy. Our three doctors, and the whole staff of fourteen
people are all Vipassana meditators. We have a separate hall exclusively for meditation, used by the
patients, staff and doctors alike. On an average about 60% of our patients take a Vipassana course.
Now I will substantiate the above findings with some case histories.
1. Meditation hastens the healing process.
We observed that in asthma, mucouscolitis, ulcerative colitis, hyper-acidity, hyper-tension, peptic
ulcer, diabetes, etc., patients recovered quickly when we added Vipassana or Anapana. We observed
that with adding Vipassana along with the naturopathy treatment, the duration of the stay was
reduced and there was faster relief.
We found in forty cases of asthma that with meditation the recovery was very fast. During acute
attacks the patients showed patience, and with their co-operation, they were free from the acute
attacks. We could also reduce the medicine in a short time.
I would like to explain one case of a young lady from Bombay, aged twenty-five years. She had had
asthma for eight years and was undergoing treatment with a bronchodialater and steroids. She was
diagnosed to have allergic bronchial asthma. Ultimately when she developed side-effects from the
medicine, her family doctor advised her to try some other alternatives. Then in April 1988 she was
admitted in our Centre. After six weeks of treatment, and Anapana, we sent her for a ten-day
Vipassana course. Thereafter she continued her diet and treatment plan of naturopathy. She came
from time to time for check-ups at our Centre. She has been quite well for all the years since then,
with no need for medicines. Sometimes she has slight attacks, but she is able to handle these herself.
She kept herself under control, and became more peaceful and co-operative.
When we practise pure naturopathy, this type of patient takes about three months to improve. When
combined with meditation, the improvement takes half that period. Several cases of this type have
been treated at our Centre.
I now will present some details concerning ulcerative colitis. We have observed about thirty cases of
this. A fifty year old man from Saurashtra had had ulcerative colitis for three years. His diagnosis was
confirmed with a barium x-ray and sigmoidoscopy. A well-known gastroenterologist treated him with
Salezpyrin, steroids and vitamins etc. He got temporary relief, but when he stopped taking medicines
his condition became worse. Ultimately he came to our Centre. We admitted him in May 1990. He was
having fifteen to twenty motions per day with blood and mucous. His haemoglobin level was very low
and his general condition was weak. He could not control his motions and would sometimes even spoil
his clothes. After three months of treatment, during which he practised Anapana and took two courses
of Vipassana, he was back to normal and is now cultivating the land. He has been coming for regular
follow-ups. His haemoglobin level rose to around 12 gm. and he now has good bowel control.
We have also observed many cases of diabetes, hyper-acidity, peptic ulcer and high blood pressure,
but in this paper I will limit myself to these two cases only. (We have on record full details of other
patients for those who are interested.)

2. The Patient's Capacity to Endure Suffering Increases.

When a patient starts the treatment, he believes his suffering is not going to change. Since the
disease is chronic, he is fed up with treatments, he loses faith and often becomes a total wreck,
cursing the situation he is in. In this way he actually multiplies his suffering. Due to all this, he is
unable to take the treatment with an open mind. But after learning Vipassana, the total outlook
towards life and disease changes. Now he understands: "Oh, this is a good opportunity to reduce my
pain and grief." Now he understands his own responsibility. He also realizes that nothing is permanent,
that his disease will also change. His pain now becomes a tool to establish equanimity. Hence, he
endures the disease with less suffering, instead of multiplying his suffering. The total attitude towards
pain and suffering changes.
3. Increase in equanimity reduces the agony of incurable patients in the face of imminent death.
As we are all aware, when patients are terminally ill, they and their relatives are passing through a
highly stressful and restless period. In their desperation, they often change therapies and try a
number of methods to be rid of this suffering. In this condition, the patient as well as his relatives live
in a continual state of insecurity, fear, deep despair, sorrow and distress. Even in this condition, if the
patient uses Vipassana along with other therapies, the remaining part of his life becomes less
There have been a number of cases in which patients had tried different types of treatment, but
ultimately came to us. We start treatment with Anapana, and send such persons for a ten-day course
of Vipassana. They may not improve physically but they become strong mentally and learn how to
develop equanimity.
One example is a gentleman aged sixty years from Bhuj, Gujarat. He was admitted in May 1988 with
lung cancer. He had undergone an operation and then remained under treatment
at Tata Cancer Hospital in Bombay for a long time. As the case was hopeless, he was sent to Bhuj, his
native place, to pass his remaining time. The patient and his relatives were under great stress and
worried a lot. He had himself admitted to our Centre and his treatment started. The main treatment
was just Anapana, and within three days he began to feel better, with some relief from pain and fear.
We could not send him for a Vipassana course, but he did Anapana quite seriously. He died ten days
later fully aware of himself, in a peaceful state of mind.
Another patient was a young electrical engineer, aged thirty-eight from Palanpur, Gujarat. He was
admitted in January 1992 in the final stage of renal failure. He was on dialysis at the Kidney Institute
but he needed a blood transfusion every time after dialysis. He developed severe anaemia and other
complications and hence could not undergo dialysis any more. Someone sent him to our Nature Cure
Clinic. On admission his Creatinine was 12, Blood Urea 180, HB 5.8, Potassium 5, Blood Pressure
180/120. He had hiccups and vomiting, severe headache, and puffiness in the face. Urine output was
only 200 to 300 ml. We started the treatment with Anapana. After three weeks, his Creatinine was 8,
Blood Urea 120, HB 9.6, Potassium 5, Blood Pressure 140/100 and urine output was about one litre.
Other symptoms also improved, but still he was worried and stressed, because being educated, he
studied a lot about his disease and ultimately he knew the prognosis. We sent him for a ten-day
Vipassana course, and when he returned, he had totally changed his attitude towards his disease. He
went for another course later on, and continued with Vipassana at home. He died after one year.
During this period he remained cheerful, and he died with peace and awareness.

4. Meditation changes the total outlook towards life and illness.

We studied five cases of psuedo muscular atrophy and two cases of Pamphigus Vulgaris. The patients
were in the worst possible condition and had lost all hope. We treated them with Anapana and three
were sent for a Vipassana course. All seven cases showed improvement. Clinically we did not find any
physical or pathological change, except for a little improvement for a short time. However mentally
they were totally changed persons.
5. In most cases, the role of mind in the genesis of disease becomes evident.
After Vipassana, patients start understanding that most diseases are not really physical-they arise in

the mind and manifest on the body. We have had a number of cases which improved with simple
Anapana and a little counselling.
A young married lady of 24 from Rajkot had been vomiting for eight months. She was treated at
various places for peptic ulcer, hyperacidity, gastritis and worms, but her condition kept deteriorating.
She was admitted to our Centre in a very bad condition in December 1991. On our recommendation
she undertook a Vipassana course. She is absolutely all right now with no medication. We had a
regular follow-up, and she is still in touch with us.
This shows how important the role of the mind is when there is any disease. There are many cases we
have studied which show that most of the diseases have their root cause in the mind.
6. Patients suffering from many types of incurable diseases were relieved beyond their expectations.
There was a man who was diagnosed with ascending neuropathy Gulanbari syndrome. He was
admitted in a completely bed-ridden condition. He could not turn to one side when sleeping, and he
could not eat unassisted. We started the diet treatment along with Anapana meditation. Because he
was bed-ridden, we could not give him any other treatment, but to our surprise, within a short period
of six weeks, he was able to sit, take his own food and was able to move his legs. Within three months
of his admission he could walk. We sent him to one of our physician friends, who was surprised to see
him walk and make all movements in a normal way. He asked me about this magical recovery. When I
told him about Anapana and diet treatment, he was not ready to believe it.
We have some other cases with similar amazing results.
7. Patients with chronic renal disease (and even failure), who were on transplants, showed
We have treated many cases of chronic renal failure, and obtained very good results. We observed
that if we add Vipassana along with our treatment, the results are more satisfying. Patients easily
develop the confidence to go without dialysis. Control of diet becomes easy after Vipassana. In this
context, I would like to explain the case of the mother of a well-known doctor of our area. In February
1992 she was diagnosed with chronic renal failure, and was treated at the Kidney Institute, Nadiad.
However her condition worsened and the doctor advised dialysis. Ultimately her son brought her over
here with high blood pressure, oedema all over of the body, anorexia, with vomiting, breathlessness
and low grade fever. Her blood urea was 130, creatinine 7.3, HB 9.5 and urine albumin - 1+. After one
month her urea was 100, creatinine 5, HB 11, and she was treated as an indoor patient for about
three months. During this period she went twice for a ten-day course. After that she came regularly
for follow-up. In her last bio-chemistry, blood urea was 70, creatinine was 4, HB 11, and blood
pressure was 140/180.
Her general condition is now very good. She is cultivating her land and looking after her grandchildren,
practising Vipassana. We have many other cases like her's.
Our experience of many years has shown that most diseases are linked with the mind. To cure them, a
therapy involving purification of the mind is necessary. It is our conviction that doctors should learn
how to practise Vipassana Meditation themselves in order to become good healers.

Humanistic Psychology and Vipassana - by Dr. Kishore Chandirimani

The humanistic approach to healing was developed as a scientific field in the early 1960's as a protest
against the dominant theories of Psychoanalysis and Behaviour Therapy. Both these approaches view
man in a very mechanical and reductionistic manner and miss out the essential aspects of being
human. Psychoanalysis views the basic nature of man as destructive and dangerous, to be kept in

check by repression and psychological defences. Behaviourists, on the other hand, view man as a
passive helpless thing not responsible for its own behaviour, and that a person is nothing but
responses to stimuli and a mere collection of conditioned habits.
Humanistic Psychology views man in a positive and holistic manner. It has brought together ideas from
many different cultures, times and traditions into the scientific framework and has enriched it. Most
humanistic psychologists recognize the potential contribution of Lord Buddha to their theories and
practice. Several authors including Jung1, Wilber2, and Suzuki3 have interpreted the Buddhist
thoughts in the modern scientific context.
This article is an attempt to study the theoretical assumptions and postulates of Vipassana, and to
examine their apparent similarities with the basic concepts of humanistic psychology.

Humanistic Principles and Vipassana

The following are some of the themes and principles of the humanistic approach that I feel are held in
common with Vipassana.
1. Each individual has inner tendencies toward development of his potential and to achieve wholeness,
which is described in humanistic terms as self-actualization.
2. Behaviour abnormalities are manifestations of blocking or distortion of personal growth. This is
generally the result of distortions of reality through use of psychological defenses. Psychological
interventions are a matter of removing these obstacles in the way of normal growth.
3. Consciousness is the unifying force. Each individual is unique, whole and cannot be understood in
parts using the laws of physics or medicine as is the case in psychoanalysis and behaviourism.
4. It is natural for a pure mind to exhibit an innate capacity for love, compassion and altruism. These
are blocked by certain emotional satisfactions that a person seeks out of ignorance.
5. We live in a limited subset of our full potential. We are often unmindful of our embodied and feeling
nature. We will live better if our present sensitivity in our
ongoing experiencing is increased, i.e., if our awareness increases.
6. For the Humanists, understanding of human behaviour is best achieved through focusing upon the
subjective experience of persons rather than the objective evaluation of behaviour. Vipassana goes
even further at the experiential level, with objective observation of bodily sensations.
7. General critical dilemnas of life are not solved by intellectual exploration of the facts nor of the laws
of thinking about them. Their resolutions emerge through conflicts and tumults, anxieties, agonies and
the adventures of faith into unknown territories. Vipassana involves using suffering as a tool, by
observing suffering objectively.
8. Man is nothing else but what he makes of himself. Individuals create their own meaning and are the
makers of themselves and their destiny.
9. There should be an emphasis on here and now. Whatever is important to a person emerges in his
present experience. There is no need to analyze the past of a person in minute detail.

Transpersonal Aspects and Vipassana

Transcendent Dimensions: That what is seen is not all there is. Transcendence involves processes
connecting individual consciousness to a larger spiritual ocean in which they participate. A harmonious
contact with this "unseen world" and adjustment to it is beneficial.
Direct Insight: Intellect is merely an instrument to analyze and interpret the personal experience. The
"direct insight", which lies outside the realm of intellect is obtained by watching rather than thinking;
by looking inside oneself; by observation.
The ego or individualized self is not the ground of human awareness. What a person thinks he is, is a
belief to be undone. The concept of self is an illusion.

Understanding Human Conditions

Freedom - Freedom is innate. The limitations and restrictions that a person feels in experiencing his or
her freedom are often self imposed4. In Vipassana freedom is understood at two levels i.e. a) freedom
of mind from defilements and b) total liberation.
Choice - Most people have little or no conscious awareness of their own role in the process of
choosing. Availability of choice is a special distinguishing feature of human beings even though we
virtually never utilize that opportunity for free choice.
Though at an abstract level we are totally responsible and free to make choices; at a given moment
while introspecting, the choice is between "yes" and "no". Either we surrender to the inner force or we
don't. What is offered for observation is beyond our control. Saying "no" to one's mechanical
behaviour during the critical moments is an important feature of humanistic psychology5. It is not
intellectual because it is a moment of will.
Surrender - It is not the object but the act of surrender which is more important. The object could be
anything i.e. teacher, path, nature or one's unconscious forces. The act of surrender helps the person
give up his habitual ego-centric control over his life and thereby leads to release of potential from
Forgiveness - It comes with the realization that we are not perfect. It is described as a liberating
experience in that it frees one from one's entanglement with the past6 and restores the order that had
been previously violated7. It involves letting go of the sense of clinging to the hurt and anger which is
essential for healing and growth. Forgiveness
converts the "hurt" into a pain shared with other human beings. Forgiveness can be readily effective
only when performed with full awareness of internal body sensations.
Inner/outer worlds - The person directs his attention first towards the inner world of internal body
sensations and later towards the outer world of external objects. This is not a question of priorities,
with the inner world being emphasized at the expense of the outer. It is simply a realization that what
we discover outside ourselves must inevitably be conditioned by what is there inside. With practice it
is possible to be aware of the both simultaneously i.e. inner sensations and outer objects.
Authenticity - means acting in a manner which is in keeping with the inner realities. The humanistic
approach helps people become more authentic by keeping the person constantly in touch with his
inner realities. It reduces the gap between what the person thinks he is and what he really is8. Thus a
person could be considered authentic if he or she practises Vipassana and acts out of "insight mode"
(pa) rather than "reacting mode".
Transcendence - The capacity to transcend, to throw off the burden of the past, is a unique
characteristic of human existence. This is probably an element missing from most of psychology.
Volition - This has been described as a life-shaping force within the individual. The volition is
influenced not only by the causative forces carried from the past but also by the goals a person seeks
in future. This teleological (or goal oriented) view, as opposed to the deterministic view of
psychoanalysis and behaviour therapy, is central to most humanistic theories.
Meaning and Purpose in Life - After resolving the feeling of meaninglessness one achieves a sense of
deep meaning in life. One feels a sense of responsibility to life, a calling to answer, a mission to
Ultimately, however, one becomes indifferent to this meaning and gives up the search for meaning.
This state should not be confused with meaninglessness as it is neither "meaningful" nor

Passion - Man is responsible for his passion; it should not be used as an excuse for making wrong
choices, as it is not insurmountable.
Death - All human beings know that they will die. This is not the same as truly accepting it. Once
death has been truly accepted, life is enhanced by appearing more vivid and precious.
God - Humanists do not exhaust themselves in demonstrations of the non-existence of God. Nothing
will be changed if God does not exist. We discover the same norms of honesty, progress and humanity.
The real problem is not of God's existence. Man should understand that a valid proof of the existence
of God cannot save him4. Only he can save himself from himself. No doctrine can be more optimistic
than this, since the destiny of man is placed with himself.

Humanistic Psychology makes it clear that life is not a problem to be solved, but a reality to
experience. This third force in psychology has thrown the doors of scientific psychology wide open. It
has become an eclectic meeting ground for divergent influences like psychology of consciousness,
existentialism, gestalt, client centred therapy, transpersonal, encounter groups etc., as they share
certain core values and assumptions about human beings. It is hoped that the spiritual traditions
of India will continue to enrich the modern scientific understanding of mankind.

1. Jung, C.G. (1978) "Psychology and the East," Princeton N.J. : Bollington Series.
2. Wilber, K. (1982) "Odyssey : A personal enquiry into the humanistic and transpersonal psychology,"
Journal of Humanistic Psychology, 22(1), 57-90.
3. Suzuki, D.T. (1970) "Essays in Zen Buddhism" (3 volumes) London, Rider.
4. Sartre, J.P. (1948) "Existentialism and Humanism" (English Edition) Butler and Tanner Ltd., Frome &
5. Mahrer, A.R. (1978)" Experiencing : A Humanistic theory of Psychology and Psychiatry,"
Brunner/Mazel Publishers, New York.
6. Martyn, D.W. (1977) "A Child and Adam : A Parable of Two Ages," Journal of Religion and Health,
16(4), 275-287.
7. Buber, M. (1951) "Guilt and Guilt Feelings," Psychiatry, 20, 114-129.
8. Rogers, C.R. (1959) "A theory of therapy, personality and interpersonal relationship as developed in
the client centred framework." "In Psychology : A Study of a Science, Vol. III." "Formulations of the
Person and the Social Context," S. Koch (editor), p184, McGraw Hill, New York, 1959.

Psychiatry and Meditation - Dr. Dhananjay Chavan

(This paper, from the 1994 seminar at New Delhi was updated in November, 2006)
A lay person is often confused about psychiatry, meditation and the relationship between the
two. Health professionals, especially mental health professionals have a different understanding of
meditation. At the same time, most lay people are clueless about the scope of psychiatry. Though
there is increased awareness about meditation and psychiatry, there is lack of clarity.
Both the words "psychiatry" and "meditation" carry mystical auras. Psychiatry, as we know it today, is
a very young science, barely a century old. On the other hand, many meditation techniques derive
from the ancient past. Meditation practices are methodologies developed and practiced centuries ago
by the scientists of mind and matter, by the sages, the saints and the Buddhas. To answer the
question, is meditation scientific, let us first understand what science is? Science is built upon an
objective observation and analysis of data, and its application. Science seeks to know the truth.

Various meditation practices involve an effort to concentrate on a particular object. While discussing
meditation, we will restrict our discussion to Vipassana meditation as discovered and taught by the
Buddha, often called the Great Physician. In Vipassana objective observation of reality is of
fundamental importance. Vipassana is not merely a concentration practice, it is an investigation into
the phenomenon of mind and matter. (Some understand mind to mean the human consciousness that
is manifested especially in thought, perception, emotion, will, memory, and imagination. When I use
mind in here I use it in this general dictionary sense. But mind and matter are used as separate
discreet fundamental entities that were discovered by Buddha. In this usage, mind is still close to the
above dictionary definition and matter means the physical body including, of course, all the physical
substrates that required for manifestation of mind. I do not get into the debate about whether mind is
function of brain or whether brain is a physical substrate required for manifestation of mind.)
People think of psychiatry as a science dealing with abnormal minds. Actually it is the study of
abnormal behaviour. To define normality is a difficult task. Normality generally means "average."
Behaviour refers to observable behaviour, which means vocal or physical actions, i.e., vocal or physical
behaviour. It may include real or intended behaviour. Recently brain imaging has added a new
dimension. In psychiatry and psychology, mental behaviour is studied only by inference after it
manifests in vocal and physical actions. The aim of these sciences is to bring the behaviour of an
individual closer to normal. (Of course, the psychological disciplines dont aim for some statistical
average but acknowledge that there is a range of normality and often there are deviations which are
also considered perfectly normal.)
We might use a more modern definition of psychiatry: an application of neuroscience to the problems
of particular groups of patients. This is a very truthful definition. Initially the scope of psychiatry was
not well defined. As a result, psychiatrists were dealing mostly with minor illnesses. During the 1960s
and 1970s, many psychiatrists in the West were practising psychoanalysis. Often their subjects were
people with very minor psychiatric problems; very rarely were they psychotic. During this period an
impression was created in some quarters that psychiatry can deal with all the problems of humanity.
In reality, psychiatry was not contributing to peace in the general society in any major way. Still, it
was rendering invaluable service to a small but significant number of patients.
Reasonable psychiatrists gradually realized that the boundaries of psychiatry are not coextensive with
those of all human mental activity. This realization is of immense significance, since it helps both the
psychiatrist and the common man to define the scope of psychiatry. Failure on the part of a lay
person to understand the scope of psychiatry has led to various problems. For example, at times a
psychiatrist is called upon to help when the problem is not actually psychiatric, stemming from the
unreasonable faith and expectation that the psychiatrist knows everything about the mind. In contrast
to this conception of the psychiatrist's omniscience, there is the other side of the coin: a lack
of faith in the whole specialty, even on the part of some health professionals, with the result that
psychiatric help is not sought even when it is appropriate and has the potential of immense benefit.
In recent times psychiatry has emerged as a branch of medicine with more focus on major psychiatric
illnesses. This has redefined the role of psychiatry as a biological science, and psychiatrists are now
playing the more appropriate role of specialists treating biological disorders which are accompanied by
behavioural disturbances. This certainly does not mean that the psychiatrists role is limited to
prescribing medicine; various other modalities of therapy are an important part of his repertoire. More
and more, psychiatrists have started restricting themselves to their proper domain: the treatment of
major psychiatric disorders. These conditions are ones which psychiatrists are better trained, better
equipped and better qualified to treat. Psychiatrists are trained to deal with "abnormal" behaviour. In
cases which are closer to normal (or average) behaviour, the difference in effectiveness between
psychiatric treatment and other treatment modalities rapidly decreases.
The World Health Organization is constantly trying to improve its diagnostic criteria for psychiatric
disorders. The new International Classification of Diseases (ICD-10) is an important step in that
direction. Effort is made to systematically demarcate the field of psychiatry to help psychiatrists
concentrate on a specific sub-population, to assist researchers in seeking to find remedies for various
disorders, and to protect people from improperly being labeled as psychiatric patients. However, the

boundaries continue to remain fuzzy. Even a competent psychiatrist at times finds it difficult to decide
whether to try treat a particular individual, or to conclude that the person is not in need of psychiatric
Whether they are in the domain of the psychiatrist or not, life throws up constant problems. What
does one do when faced with life's problems? Every individual encounters the suffering that results
when unwanted things happen, when wanted things do not happen; when one gets what one does not
like, or loses what he likes. Where should one look for the solution?
Everyone suffers from various kinds of misery. When confronted with problems in business, one
person might become anxious very easily, while another person is inclined to sadness. One may
become angry and another one may become fearful. In such instances, the individual may well not
have a psychiatric disorder. He or she might benefit as much from the advice and support of a wise
friend or a wise relative as from psychiatric intervention. Even so, everyone's life is bound to have
challenges, and suffering occurs again and again.
Mind is the principal factor. We have to study it, probe it to its depths in order to master it and in order
to solve our problems. This is precisely what Vipassana is all about. Vipassana meditation is the
science of exploring the entire phenomenon of mind and matter. Psychiatry studies mind only
indirectly and only to the extent that it renders itself observable by its manifestation in vocal and
physical actions. (Brain imaging techniques have added a new dimension to this study and have
opened many doors for this study.) In the science of meditation, the mind is studied directly. This
unmediated subjective observation was widely prevalent in Asia since ancient times.
Actions have their origin in the mind. But not everything that arises in the mind manifests as a vocal
or physical action. Physical actions which appear to be similar might originate from quite different
mental volitions. For example, a person who freezes when he sees a snake might have two entirely
different reasons for this action. He may be extremely frightened; or he may be very calm and is
staying immobile so as not to frighten the snake, or so as to observe the snake. Similarly, a person
who gives a coin to a beggar may be giving it out of compassion; just to get rid of a nuisance; or
because others are watching him and he does not want to appear to be a stingy person.
So the first problem with the psychiatric approach is that it is difficult to derive conclusions about the
mind from vocal and physical behaviour. The mind must be studied directly. We have some help from
various brain imaging techniques and electrophysiological studies (such CT scan, MRI, PET scan, EEG
etc) still the information gained by these is very limited. Another problem results from "Cartesian
dualism," the arbitrary separation of mind and matter. For a long time the specialized medical
profession studied body but excluded the study of mind. And when psychiatrists started studying the
mind, in whatever manner, they ignored the body. Today the importance of a holistic approach is
widely accepted. But there is neither a satisfactory method of enquiry, nor proper understanding of the
interaction of mind and matter, with the result that there are many theories, but few facts. With
modern imaging techniques and increasing awareness of body-mind interaction, the data is increasing
but satisfactory methods of enquiry are still lacking.
We may find some solutions through proper understanding of meditation. The term "meditation" has a
variety of meanings. In English, the term is loosely used to refer to thinking about something.
Dictionaries define it as "contemplation": to exercise the mind in contemplation, to focus on a subject
of contemplation; to ponder, muse, or ruminate. When we refer to meditation here, we are not using
the term in this pedestrian sense.
The Enlightened One, Gotama the Buddha, used the word bhvan to describe practices of mental
development. This word literally means development or training but is loosely translated as
meditation. It refers to specific mental exercises, precise techniques for focusing and purifying the
mind. When we use the word "meditation" here, we use it in this technical sense. Almost all Indian
languages have specific words for different meditation practices because India has a rich tradition of
these disciplines. Such words as dhyna, japa, traka, sdhan, vipassan (vidarshan), bhvan
etc., refer to different kinds of mental practices. Broadly speaking, meditation is an exercise in the

concentration of mind on various objects. Since concentration of mind is the prerequisite for any task,
it is a very important factor in the exploration of the mind-matter phenomenon. There are many
possible objects of concentration: visual, auditory, imaginations, verbalizations, etc.
The Buddha gave us a wonderful object of concentration, our own natural respiration. Unlike other
objects which are either external or do not have any direct relation to our mind and body, this is an
object which has many advantages. It is internal, and constantly present from birth to death. It is a
tangible reality, even if a gross one. It is both conscious and unconscious, intentional and
unintentional. Its rhythm is so intimately connected with the mental state that any defilement arising
in mind, even the slightest agitation, disturbs the rhythm of the respiration. We cannot find any other
object of concentration which is so intimately connected with the mind-matter phenomenon and yet
renders itself so easily to observation.
But concentration is not the goal of meditation; it is only a tool. A tool for what?
Here we encounter the third difficulty of the modern scientific approach, that of defining the problem
itself. The four Noble Truths of Suffering are very simple, logical and universal: suffering exists; it has
a cause; this cause can be eradicated; there is a path to its eradication. Yet these universal truths
might not have been appreciated because in the past psychiatry has focused more on the "why" than
on the "how." The same is true about some spiritual approaches. This attitude of searching for
meaning while ignoring fundamental mechanisms of reality serves to obscure, rather than enhance,
the study of the problems of the human mind. Concentration techniques of meditation increase ability
to sustain attention and hence help in objective observation of fundamental mechanisms of reality.
The Buddha was a scientist of mind and matter; a scientist of misery and happiness. He not only
explored the mind and matter phenomenon himself in its entirety and came out of all suffering, but he
showed the method to do it so that other people by adapting that method could come out of their
misery. He taught the observation of how the mind works, how mind and matter interact. He taught
Vipassan means to see in a special way. It is objective observation of the internal reality. It is development of insight into ones own nature. It involves no assumptions; rather, it is mere objective observation. It is a practical way of understanding our problem of suffering and solving it. In the same way
as the problem is universal, the remedy also is universal. In Vipassana we learn to observe our
sensations objectively. Sensations are the meeting point of the intimate mind-matter interaction.
Though sensations arise in the body, they are felt by the mind. While observing the sensations, we
start understanding how the mind works. Each of us becomes a scientist of mind and matter. We get
direct knowledge. The Buddha described four fundamental processes of mind: consciousness
(via), perception (sa), sensations (vedan), and conditionings (sakhr). No one need
accept these processes intellectually; they become clear once we start experiencing the reality within.
Via cognizes the sense object that has come in contact with the sense door. Sa evaluates the
objectthe evaluation is influenced by past reactions and past impressions. Vedan is the resultant
sensation that is influenced by the evaluation. Sakhr is the reaction to the sensation of liking or
disliking that creates a conditioning and sets a behaviour pattern.
As we learn to observe the sensations inside, it becomes experientially clear that it is towards these
very sensations that we keep continuously reacting. The sensations are the basis on which the
conditionings, the patterns of reactioncraving and aversiondevelop. This was a profound discovery
of the Buddha. It is our conditioning (behaviour pattern of the mind, sakhra) which makes us suffer
again and again, and this conditioning can be eradicated by the practice of objective observation of the
sensations. We can learn not to develop new conditionings of craving and aversion towards the
sensations; and as a consequence, start to eradicate the old conditionings. The practice is a process of
gradual eradication of mental defilements. This nonsectarian technique is useful in enabling one and
all to live a better life, a happy life, a peaceful life. For many who undergo a ten-day Vipassana course
under the supervision of a competent instructor, the course is a life-transforming experience.
The practice of exploring mind and matter at the deepest level is not easy. It requires a certain mental
and physical stability. A sincere seeker who wishes to undergo the training in Vipassana meditation
needs to have a minimum mental and physical health. Generally all but those with severe psychiatric

problems are fit to undertake a course. (It is advisable to contact the management of the Vipassana
course in advance if an applicants mental suitability is in question.)
Vipassana is the universal remedy to the universal malady of misery. For those who are so mentally
incapacitated as to be incapable of taking up the delicate task of self-observation in order to come out
of suffering, psychiatrists have an important role to play. Except for this section of the population with
severe psychiatric disorders, Vipassana can be useful to one and all.
Vipassana meditation is universal in scope because it encompasses all aspects of human mental
activity. Psychology also purports to study the entirety of human mental activity, but is often reduced
to the science of behaviour. Behaviour in this context is defined as anything a person does that can
be observed in some way. The contention is that behaviour, unlike mind, thoughts or feelings, can be
observed and studied. Indeed sometimes, mental activity is also included to mean behaviour but study
still depends on outer manifestions or reports. For a psychologist of yesteryears, behaviour was the
only avenue through which internal mental events could be studied. Today, psychology is not so much
in the clutches of behaviorists as it was a couple of decades ago. These days powerful imaging and
investigating tools have given some validity to 'inner mental experiences' or first-person-experiences.
Psychology as a scientific community is making a sincere attempt to understand the ancient mental
training methods. This effort in true scientific spirit is bound to help society in general.
Any person who has practiced meditation of awareness and self-observation knows from his own
experience that internal mental events can be observed directly. He or she becomes a true
psychologist unto himself. This science of self-observation has the potential to help one and all to
come out of all misery. However, unlike other scientific discoveries and technological advances where
discoveries made by one person can be enjoyed by others, for one to benefit from Vipassana, each
one has to make effort. That is a serious undertaking and requires a sincere wish to liberate oneself
from all mental bondages.

The Value of Anapana and Vipassana in Psychological and Psychosomatic Illnesses

Dr. K. S. Ayyar
Goals of Vipassana and Psychiatry
It is important to note that physical and mental well-being are by-products and not the goals of
Vipassana meditation. For the diligent meditator, nibbana, the washing away of all mental impurities,
is the goal. Self-purification by self-observation is the process by which this washing away occurs,
which may sound similar to "working through" in psychoanalysis. Purification means removal of greed,
anger and ignorance, which are considered to be mental pollutants. During Vipassana, body and mind
experience the reality of impermanence and change (anicca). The sense of self, ego, will be altered
and egolessness will prevail. Equanimity is cultivated in all situations.
The goals of modern medicine and psychiatry are modest in comparison. We seek to relieve physical
and mental suffering and anguish and return the person to his social and work environment, ideally at
his pre-illness level of functioning. Modern medicine is ever open to new techniques of therapeutic
value, provided they are adequately researched. Attention may be drawn to the fact that the 1985
issue of the American Journal of Psychiatry carried an article on Vipassana which was given
prominence, both on the cover and within the journal, though not much research has been done on
the subject. Sarpagandha for hypertension, yoga therapy and Mahesh Yogi's Transcendental Meditation
are examples of Indian therapies finding their way into the textbooks of medicine and psychiatry.
Anapana and Vipassana too can be included in the relevant textbooks, after systematic studies on
their utility and limitations as therapeutic modalities.
Personal Experience of Vipassana as a Somato-Psychic Therapeutic Modality
The ten day Vipassana course is an initiation into the two techniques of Anapana (breath awareness)
and Vipassana (mind-body awareness), and not a therapeutic regime. Medical professionals are
concerned with the body, the bodily sensations and the impact of the emotions on the bodily organs.

In psychiatry there are several therapies which proceed from the body towards the mind. Deep muscle
relaxation by Jacobson's method, other modified muscle relaxation techniques and biofeedback
therapy are classic examples. Behaviour therapy too tackles the body and its actions or responses first
and emotions later, or sometimes never. Thus Vipassana has similarities to these therapies, in contrast
to the psychotherapies. Psychoanalysis, which begins with the mind and the emotions, pays scant
attention directly to the body, but still manages to provide relief from somatic symptoms.
I found that with Anapana (breath awareness), concentration is attained quickly. With my regular
experience with deep muscle relaxation and self hypnosis, I might have found it easier than an
uninitiated layman.
During the Vipassana course, a state of partial sensory deprivation exists: no TV, no radio, no writing,
no reading, no conversations. This absence of stimuli prevents the conscious mind from going into its
usual habit patterns of thinking, behaving, and emoting. The circumstances are thus ideal for
unconscious repressed feelings to surface and for sensations and events from the past to break into
conscious awareness.
With about 110 hours of sustained concentration during a ten day course, there is ample opportunity
for the accumulated complexes from the past to express themselves on the body and get eradicated.
The partial sensory deprivation is akin to the Freudian couch, where the person under analysis has the
same view in front of his eyes and has to maintain a constant position on the couch. The difference is
that 100 hours of analysis would take about 4-5 months, and in practice, in psychotherapy, it is
difficult to get the Indian patient to follow up for more than 6-10 sessions of about 45 minutes each.
Here Vipassana has an advantage. I also observed during meditation that minor physical ailments like
nasal stuffiness or eye discomfort disappeared quickly. Sympathetic and para-sympathetic discharges
occur spontaneously. Palpitations, sweating, throbbing, tingling, vibrations, abdominal movements and
kinaesthetic sensations, appear and disappear. Sensations related to the central nervous system like
muscle discomfort, aches, pains and cramps also occur, and persist for varying durations of time.
Spontaneous emotional states like fear, panic, anger and sexual arousal can appear and disappear
during meditation. Since whatever happens to the body and mind during Vipassana stems mostly from
the past, accumulated physical and mental tensions are relieved by this technique.
Clinical Indications for Vipassana Meditation and Research on Vipassana
Vipassana may be used to produce general physical well-being and also general mental well-being. It
can relieve minor physical ailments like rhinitis and muscle spasms. It can relieve minor psychological
abnormalities like irritability and short-temperedness.
It may prove useful in the treatment of psychosomatic disorders like spondylitis, headache, migraine,
peptic ulcer syndrome, colitis, neurodermatitis, psoriasis and eczema, hypertension, diabetes, arthritis
Among psychiatric disorders, anxiety neurosis, depressive neurosis, phobias, addictions and
personality problems may be benefited by Vipassana meditation.
The theoretical benefits from Vipassana have been discussed in the American Journal of Psychiatry
(Jan 1985). Dr Paul Fleischman, a psychiatrist, has discussed the beneficial effects on both mind and
body in his booklet, "The Therapeutic Actions of Vipassana: Why I Sit." To Dr. Fleischman, every
aspect of the training course and the lectures during the course has psychotherapeutic significance
and contributes to producing improvement in mind and body functions.
Vipassana has been tried out on prisoners and jail officials in Rajasthan and was found to produce
perceptible attitudinal changes. Sinha et al., in an uncontrolled study with poor experimental design,
found improved attention span, alertness and mental stability. During the Vipassana Research Institute
Seminar in 1986, several individual meditators reported significant improvement in several
psychosomatic and stress related syndromes, from cervical spondylosis and essential hypertension, to
degenerative diseases like muscular dystrophy. Such self-reports are usually exaggerated, and suffer
from a positive bias and what is called the "attribution" or "halo" effect. The symptoms of such effects

were seen in the excessive stress on the pristine purity, the antiquity and the Indian origin of the
technique and excessive adulation of the teacher. Anecdotal examples, though insufficient proof by
themselves, are useful in leading to controlled scientific investigation which will be acceptable to the
scientific community at large.
Certain studies, like that of Kabat-Zinn in 1982, definitely prove that Vipassana has a role to play in
chronic diseases. It was proved to be of value in relieving chronic pain by reducing the experience of
suffering by cognitive reappraisal. The cause of the pain may not disappear, but the attitude to the
pain changes and therefore suffering is diminished considerably. Similarly, with neurodermatitis,
psoriasis, and eczema; where the patient can learn to ignore the itching sensations, or observe them
in a detached way and avoid scratching. Thus he breaks the itch-scratch-itch cycle which in turn helps
to heal the lesions.
At the end of the Vipassana Research Institute Seminar three years ago, I was part of a group which
prepared guidelines for research on the medical and psychological aspects of Vipassana. Monitoring
basic parameters like blood pressure, maintaining case records, regular follow-up records, and biochemical and electrophysiological monitoring of sincere meditators were some of the suggestions
given. I am told that it may take some time to work out a programme for getting medical and psychophysiological data on meditators.

Results of Application of Anapana in Psychiatric Patients:

Breath awareness has been used by me over the last two and a half years with neurotic and
psychosomatic disorders. I have not conducted any systematic study to compare it scientifically with
other psychiatric treatments. But the following observations from my experience with 40 patients may
be relevant.
1) Anapana-sati is easy to teach. It can be easily practised in a sitting position.
2) Together with other physical techniques, it provides variety in treatment and keeps the patient from
giving up the technique out of boredom. With Jacobson's relaxation technique, it has been found that
most patients stop doing it or become highly irregular in practice after the second month.
3) Anapana is as effective as Jacobson's technique in producing relaxation and in keeping the mind
calm and peaceful.
4) Roughly 80% of patients who were taught and practised Anapana showed good clinical
improvement. (Benson's relaxation response, Woolfolk's breathing meditation, Carrington's clinically
standardised meditation, autogenic exercises, Finland exercises and biofeedback also decreased
arousal during their application, just as occurs with Anapana, and all these techniques yield similar
results to Transcendental Meditation in comparable patient groups. Anapana and Vipassana too, when
researched, should yield similar observations. T.M., it is worth noting, has been the most widely
researched meditation technique, much more than yoga therapy, for example, in psychiatric patients.)
5) Non-specific healing aspects of a Vipassana meditation course:

a) A ten days vacation from daily routines is itself psycho-therapeutic in nature.

b) The enforced silence, temporary isolation and unique calm atmosphere are probably being
experienced for the first time in the individual's life. To the average person it is highly esoteric and
other worldly, and their experience of having lived in a different world for ten days has its therapeutic
c) The average Indian probably cheats in little ways even when observing fasts. So following the rigid
code of discipline during Vipassana, with total control over one's eating habits, speech and sleep, from
4 a.m. to 9.30 p.m. each day, gives a sense of mastery over oneself. The very idea that one was able

to go through this apparently strenuous self-discipline lightens the mood, produces a sense of
euphoria and has definite therapeutic potential.
d) The effects will depend upon the amount of praise heaped upon the technique by the person
recommending it. Vipassana, like other therapies with esoteric and mystical qualities, such as
hypnosis, may have great placebo effect.
e) The charismatic influence of Mr. S. N. Goenka will produce favourable results, though he takes great
pains to avoid a cult relationship.
f) Hope means expectation of success. The teacher looks very confident. The patient is assured of
relief because of this. Thus the placebo effect is activated.
g) Trust: the teacher appears to be a sincere, honest, trustworthy, genuine and authentic person.
These qualities themselves are capable of improving the patient by activating the placebo effect.
h) Faith: During the lectures, Goenkaji's sensitivity to human problems, empathic understanding, skill,
wisdom and positivity and assuredness are communicated to the meditator, and this engenders faith.
And this faith by itself, through a placebo effect, is capable of producing improvement.
Goenkaji himself wants the improvements to occur by the technique alone. But all the above factors
help to undo anxiety. The disruptive physiological effects of anxiety are brought under control. So
energies are now conserved and diverted to dealing more effectively with existing problems and
6) Resistance to Vipassana meditation among patients.
The psychiatrist Dr Paul Fleischman finds a therapeutic benefit in all aspects of Vipassana, but states
in his book that he would not recommend it to patients unless they inquire about it. He cites
professional and cultural reasons for this.
Certain phobic and anxious patients resist being diverted to another helping agency because their
dependent relationship with the psychiatrist is then dissolved. A few patients I had directed to
Goenkaji's recent lecture at Malad were not interested in what they saw as Buddhist techniques. The
present communally charged atmosphere and the problem of prejudices sometimes prevent
individuals from accepting something highly beneficial.
Sometimes patients have unrealistic expectations; for example a doctor from Borivili said that in ten
days only two techniques were taught. She probably expected a new technique every day. Similarly
a Bombay consultant was unable to accept the ideology and the explanations and was thus put off
from practising the technique after completing the course.
Though Vipassana is universal in its application, it may not suit all patients, even if they belong to one
of the clinical categories where it can be helpful. Similarly, through no fault of the technique or its
teaching, some patients will not be able to benefit from it because of their individual developmental
experiences and mental make-up. A scientific study of the people who drop out of courses would thus
be useful to clarify the characteristics of the individuals who benefit from Vipassana.

Vipassana Meditation-A Clinical Model

Dr. R. M. Chokhani

One of the more widespread modern adaptations of traditional consciousness-training practices is the
Vipassana Meditation technique, which has recently become popular among both the lay public and
workers in the mental health field.
Vipassana is a Pali word meaning "insight". It is a system of self-transformation by self-observation;
the object is to eventually reach a state of inner and outer calmness and balance of mind (Thray Sithu
Sayagyi U Ba Khin, 1983).
Meditation as a practice of self-liberation was developed in all cultures by and for members of religious
groups in the context of their cosmology (Kutz I. Borsenko J.J. & Benson H., 1985). The Teachings of
Gotama, the Buddha, embody a psychological system as well as a cosmology. Known as Abhidhamma,
this is the most systematic and intricately laid out psychology-presenting a set of assumptions and
concepts for understanding mental activity and methods for healing mental disorders, which differ
markedly from the contemporary psychotherapeutic outlook (Goleman D., 1977).

The Abhidhamma Model of Mind

This model of mental activity is an "object relation" theory in the broadest sense: its basic dynamic is
the ongoing relationship of mental states to sensory objects. "Sense objects" include precepts in the
five main sensory modalities, plus thought or cognitive activity, which in this system is seen as a "sixth
sense". "Mental states" are in continuous change and flux: in this analysis, the rate of change of the
smallest unit of mental states-a mind moment which is a moment of awareness-is incredibly fast,
described as arising at the rate of millions in the time of a flash of lightning.
Each successive mental state is composed of a set of properties, or mental factors, which gives it its
distinctive characteristics: there are 52 basic perceptual, cognitive and affective categories of these
properties (Narada Thera, 1968). The basic dichotomy in this analysis of mental factors is that
between pure, wholesome or healthy and impure, unwholesome or unhealthy mental properties. Just
as in systematic desensitisation, where tension is supplanted by its physiologic opposite relaxation
(Wolpe J., 1957), healthy mental states are antagonistic to unhealthy ones, inhibiting them. Vipassana
Meditation aims to eradicate these unhealthy properties from the psychological economy. The
operational definition of mental health is their complete absence, as in the case of the arahat or saint
(Goleman D., 1977).

Mechanism & Psychological Effects

Vipassana meditation trains the concentrated attention to follow the mechanics of mental processing in
a detached fashion. This perspective of an observer allows the controlled release of mental contents
like craving and aversion, past and future in a seemingly endless stream of memories, wishes,
thoughts, conversations, scenes, desires, dreads, lusts and thousands upon thousands of emotionally
driven pictures of every kind-which rise to the surface of the mind and pass away without provoking a
reaction, while simultaneously anchoring one in concrete, contemporary reality (Fleischman P.R.,
1986). Since the meditator is at the same time deeply relaxed, the whole contents of his mind can be
seen as composing a "Desensitisation hierarchy"; in this sense, Vipassana meditation may be natural
global self-desensitisation (Goleman D.,1977).
The mind is deconditioned with meditation altering the process of conditioning per se, so that it is no
longer a prime determinant of future acts (Goleman D.,1977); a refinement of awareness occurs and
one responds consciously to life situations thereby becoming free from limitations which were forged
by mere reactions to them. One's life becomes characterised by increased awareness, realityorientation, non-delusion, self-control and peace (Fleischman P.R., 1986). Such a person attains a
state of inner and outer calmness and is able to make quick decisions, correct and sound judgement
and concerted effort-mental capabilities which definitely attribute to success in contemporary life.

A Model for Clinical Application

The clinical utility of Vipassana Meditation is more likely to be in terms of providing a general
psychological pattern of positive mental states rather than as a response to any particular presenting
problem; generally, the conventional psychotherapies are generated as treatments for the latter. All
the same, the author has been using a cognitive therapeutic technique, derived from the system of
Vipassana Meditation, as a supplementary treatment and has found it to be effective in psychoneurotic
and psychosomatic disorders.
It should be noted that the therapist ought to be well conversant with the technique of Vipassana
Meditation and a mature meditator himself. Speaking in Vipassana parlance, the patient observes his
respiration (Anapana meditation), while the therapist practises Metta (loving kindness meditation).
Before commencing the formal therapy, the therapist explains to the patient its potential benefits,
particularly relaxation, which helps reduce the latter's apprehension and enables him to co-operate
and participate actively in the treatment. In addition, it is necessary to ensure that the physical
environment is one which will facilitate relaxation; the room should be quiet and free from
interruptions and the patient's couch should be reasonably comfortable.
The patient is asked to lie comfortably on the couch, close his eyes and observe the flow of respiration
by concentrating on the area of the upper lip just below the nostrils; whether in-breath or out-breath,
deep or shallow, fast or slow, natural breath, bare breath and only breath. If and when his mind
wanders, the patient is instructed to passively disregard the intrusion and repeatedly focus his
attention on his breath, without getting upset or disturbed about the drift.
Two things happen: one-his mind gets concentrated on the flow of respiration and two-he becomes
aware of the relationship between mental states and the flow of respiration, that whenever there is
agitation in the mind-anger, hatred, fear, passion, etc... the natural flow of respiration gets affected
and disturbed. He thus learns to simply observe and remain alert, vigilant and equanimous.
The patient is advised to continue practising the technique at his residence, twice daily, in the morning
and at night, each session lasting for about 30 minutes. The therapist reviews this technique with his
patient from time to time and encourages him to continue to strive for his personal autonomy (Surya
N.C.,1979)-that is, to take personal responsibility for his own health.

It is my contention that this technique shortens the total duration of treatment, and helps the patient
to cope better in the community, by providing a general pattern of stress-responsivity less likely to
trigger specific over-learned maladaptive responses, whether psychological or somatic. Moreover,
there is a change in the patient's internal state, whereby his attention is focused, his perceptual and
motor systems function optimally, and his anxiety is minimal; and this in spite of, and while meeting a
great variation in the external environmental demand by virtue of self-regulating and developing one's
internal capacities with Vipassana Meditation.
Multicentred controlled clinical trials of this technique with sophisticated experimental designs would
help to study its value and limitations in the prevention and treatment of various psychiatric disorders.
Also, it needs to be clarified as to which patient, with what clinical problem, will benefit with Vipassana
Meditation as the treatment of choice, vis--vis other self-regulation strategies, such as biofeedback,
hypnosis, transcendental and other meditation techniques, progressive relaxation and the like.

Fleischman P.R.(1986), The Therapeutic Action of Vipassana and Why I Sit, Buddhist Publication
Society, Kandy, Sri Lanka.

Goleman D. (1977), Meditation And Consciousness: An Asian Approach to Mental Health, Am. J.
Psychother. 30: 41-54.
Kutz I., Borysenko J.J. & Benson H. (1985), Meditation and Psychotherapy, Am. J. Psychiatry, Vol. 142,
No. 1:1-8.
Narada Thera (1986), A Manual of Abhidhamma, Buddhist Publication Society, Kandy, Ceylon.
Syrya N.C. (1979), Personal Autonomy And Instrumental Accuracy, in "Psychotherapeutic Processes",
Editors: M.Kapur, V.N.Murthy, K.Satyavathi and R.L.Kapur, N.I.M.H.A.N.S., Bangalore, India : 1-19.
Thray Sithu Sayagyi U Ba Khin (1983), The Essentials of Buddha Dhamma in Meditative Practice,
Vipassana Journal, Hyderabad,India: Vipassana International Meditation Centre, 1-6.
Wolpe J. (1958), Psychotherapy by Reciprocal
Inhibition, Stanford University Press, Stanford, California.

My Ten Days with Vipassana-Personal experiences during the 1986 Conference

Dr. V. B. Athavale

The first time I heard of Vipassana was in December 1986. When Dr Chokhani phoned me, I agreed
immediately to attend the conference and the course for 3 reasons:

1) Dr. Chokhani had tactfully fanned my ego by telling me that being a doctor, I would be a special
invitee and would not have to fill out the registration form.
2) Having knowledge of Sanskrit, the word "Vipasyana" appeared to be meaningful and attractive-to
observe in a special way.
3) Jidnasa: curiosity to know and learn something new also attracted me to join the course.
All of you who were present at the Inauguration of the International Conference will remember the
following incident. While Goenkaji was delivering his inaugural address, a person came rushing to the
dias with intention of attacking him with blows. However, he remained undisturbed, kept quiet for a
few seconds and then started chanting Tera Mangal, Tera Mangal, Tera Mangal Hoya Re (May You Be
Happy, May You Be Happy...).

Later on, we learned that this person was insane and was brought by his father with the idea that he
might get cured by the spiritual powers of Goenkaji. We have all heard similar stories about Buddha
and other saints like Tukaram; however it is a rare opportunity to witness such episodes-one has to
experience it to believe it.

Diet: Most of us have the habit of munching frequently throughout the day. Before joining the course,
I was aware that we would be having our lunch as usual, but that the evening food would be light.
Like many others I tended to overeat during lunch so that I could compensate for the light evening
meal. After 2 days I realised that after having lunch I felt sleepy, while an alert mind was essential for
proper meditation. Thus I was convinced that the dietary regime followed during the course was ideal
for both physical and mental health.

Silence: Though I was apprehensive initially about my ability to control my tongue, within 24 hours I
was convinced that the number of thoughts encroaching on the mind are drastically reduced by
maintaining silence. This in turn helps one to follow the instructions in a more effective manner.

Posture: Though no particular posture was prescribed, on the first day itself I realised that sitting with
knees flexed in one posture, even for five minutes, was a difficult task as my knees started aching. I
continued my practice with extended knees. After a few days of practice, I realised that I could sit with
knees flexed for longer and longer periods. The only trick which worked was to ignore the aching
knees and a determination that if others could sit in a similar posture, why should I not be able to
achieve it for longer periods.

Concentration On Natural Breathing: In different types of meditation, different targets are set for
fixing the mind: for example pictures of gods, or chanting a mantra like om. As breathing is a natural
process and is a constant companion, one does not have to depend on external objects for focusing
one's mind. One can continue one's meditation while walking or carrying on one's routine work; for
example, while driving one can easily focus on breathing instead of keeping one's mind occupied in
useless thoughts.

Concentrating On Body Sensations: Focusing one's mind on small areas of different parts of the body
with awareness of the natural body sensations is again convenient because, like respiration, our body
is a constant companion. The human body is composed of the same basic constituents as all objects in
the universe. Hence, by focusing the mind on any part of the body, realising its intricacies would
naturally reveal the mysteries of the Law of Nature. In addition, directing one's mental energy to
different organs of the body is one of the ways of improving the health of these organs.

Goenkaji's Discourses: By giving examples from day to day life and stories of saints like the Buddha,
the principles of philosophy are imprinted on everyone's mind.

Universal Friendship Meditation: The course ends with a short session on the importance of universal
friendship. During this meeting I was reminded of the Inaugural Session. The practical demonstration
was given by Goenkaji himself. He considered his attacker as his friend and blessed him.

The entire course was conducted in the peaceful and serene atmosphere of Dhamma Giri. At the end
of the course, everyone emerged as a better person and with a changed outlook of life.
When I joined the course, I only knew the literal meaning of the word Vipasyana. At the end of the
course, I realised that rather than having tons of theoretical knowledge, it is better to have a pinch of
experience. The sweet memories still linger on in my mind and have dragged me to the present
course. So I am here with you all today.

Vipassana -- My Experience, by Mr Atul Shroff

In the seventies I was searching for something tangible, something I can't name, which would help me
find myself, make me understand myself. I tried many ways--yoga, meditation, est--going from one
"guru" to another. From each I learnt something special, a new dimension, but none of them gave me
a "wholistic" outlook towards life--a wholistic dimension towards feeling and thinking.
It was in 1989 that I first came across the technique of "Vipassana" and undertook a course in
Igatpuri. During the programme I knew that this was what I had been looking for. The change that I
felt was wholesome. My mental as well as my physical status underwent a change.

Physically, the addiction of tobacco was broken; I no longer felt like using it, although I started again
three months later. Mentally, there was a new dimension to my thinking and perception, an experience
completely out of this world. Unlike in other programmes, the learning was all self-based. I did not
have to depend on others to help me. I could move at my own pace, and also not feel threatened by
others, which helped me understand myself honestly. I also did not need the support of others in my
problem solving.
The second time I went for a course was in December 1993. All my harmful habits are almost
eliminated now, and that without any pain. My ability to cope with stress has been enhanced. One
manifestation of this is greater courage in facing negativity. Recent economic liberalization has had a
great negative impact on my industry. I have taken this with minimal stress. Also I have encouraged
the organization to take this as a challenge and to face the new realities squarely, rather than lying
I have found that Vipassana opens my mind--empties it and makes it receptive. I am then able to fill
this with positive suggestions. I used to employ "auto-suggestions" and similar techniques. Now the
positive suggestions given to the mind are more effective.
I have ongoing moral and ethical values and social involvement from my family background. The
industrial relations in our company have been built on strong trust, resulting in no strikes for more
than two decades. Now with Vipassana I see these strengthening and deepening. This arises from
direct experience of purity rather than a handed-down norm or habit.
So much for myself. My experience concerning others in my industry is as below:
1. Quite a few have given up smoking tobacco, although some of them have started again.
2. There is a softer, quieter look on their faces.
3. They listen more and are better understood.
4. Some have been able to control their anger.
5. They spend less time in emotional reaction.
6. There is more patience and tolerance.
7. Our meetings are more quiet and calm.
8. There are many who can work for longer hours with more concentration.
9. There is decreased irritability.
10. There are many who have found some relief from pain related to backaches, headaches, acidity
and other physical ailments.
11. Those around them feel the meditators are more approachable, acceptable and likeable.
We have introduced one hundred and forty-two employees to the Vipassana
programme. They have been mostly staff, with some workmen also.
Our aim is to introduce three hundred more employees to the technique in this financial year.

The Relevance of Vipassana for the Environmental Crisis - by Prof. Lily de Silva
Environmental pollution is a great threat to the survival of humankind on this planet. If effective
measures are not taken immediately, a catastrophe which is similar in destructive capacity to that
caused by nuclear war is imminent as a result of environmental pollution and increased exposure to
U.V. radiation through ozone depletion. The rate of pollution caused by human beings far exceeds
nature's ability to purify and rejuvenate its life-sustaining air and water. We understand the problem
that we now face, hence the search for development with sustainability. But it is our contention that a
radical solution has not yet been looked for, let alone found, and that man is only trying to grapple
with this enormous global problem with patchwork technological remedies.

From the point of view of the Buddha's teaching, environmental pollution is but the external
manifestation of man's internal moral pollution, which has assumed alarming proportions and reached
a crisis. A number of suttas in the Pali Canon such as the Agganna (Digha III 80), Cakkavattisihanada
(Digha III 58) and some in the Anguttaranikaya (I, 160; II 75) express that when moral degeneration
becomes rampant in society, it causes adverse changes in the human body and in our environment.
The legend in the Agganna Sutta states that moral degeneration causes the loss of beauty in the
human personality and depletion of natural food resources in the external world. These adverse
repercussions are proportionate to the extent of moral degradation.
Crime also increases in society and, grappling with these problems, people try to organize appropriate
social institutions to make life more tolerable, peaceful and comfortable for one and all, to the best of
their ability.
Thus Buddhism believes that moral consciousness/the human mind, the human body, the external
world consisting of fauna and flora, and society are intricately interconnected through an all-embracing
network of cause and effect, to make one whole psychologically sensitive and responsive eco-system.
It is this fact that the Buddha succinctly summarizes in the stanza:
Cittena niyyati loko cittena parikissatiCittassa ekadhammassa sabbeva vasam anvagu ti.
The world is led by the mind, it is dragged hither and thither by the mind.
The mind is one reality under the power of which everything goes.
(Samyuttanikaya I 39)
If we loosely translate the phrase cittena niyyati loko as "the world operates through human ideas,"
we can see at a practical level how the face of the earth has been changed with advancing human
ideas/knowledge during the course of history. At the dawn of civilization when man was hunting and
gathering food, nature remained almost undisturbed. During the age of settled agricultural life,
irrigation schemes were developed and the face of nature was modified to a certain extent. The
industrial revolution brought about further changes with excessive exploitation of natural resources
and mass production. The twentieth century, which boasts of 90% of the scientists the world has ever
produced, has ushered in the Nuclear Age and the Space Age.
Thus we see how human ideas have brought about vast changes in nature, to such an extent that
Nature's purifying, rejuvenating and replenishing capacities have been outstripped by man's activity of
exploitation, causing unprecedented pollution and impoverishment. According to Buddhist
interpretation, the root cause that is responsible for this crisis is man's greed for luxury, wealth and
power. The human brain has developed without keeping pace with the human heart and moral
responsibility. Intellectually, modern man may be a giant, but emotionally he is a dwarf suffering with
spiritual bankruptcy. One sociologist observes that modern man has one leg strapped to a jet plane
and the other leg tied to a bullock cart.
Thus man is torn apart with conflicting desires and practical realities. Further, man's intellect is
limited; he lacks the vision to see how far-reaching his behaviour and activities are, and how they
affect negatively or positively his own well-being, and unsuspected aspects of the physical activities of
The Buddha's theory of paticcasamuppada too maintains the same principle, that mind and matter,
man and nature are interconnected and interdependent. Man depends on nature for sustenance, for, it
is said: Sabbe satta aharatthitika. In search of food and also clothing, shelter and medicine, humans
change their environments according to their technological skills. For example, modern men use
chemical fertilizers, insecticides, and herbicides in agriculture for better harvests. These destroy the
natural bacterial balance, which gives rise to adverse chain reactions, which in turn affect human
health and well-being.
Further, the same truth of dependence of man and Nature is reiterated in the commentaries through
the theory of the five cosmic laws, panca niyama dhamma. The five are as follows: physical laws

(utuniyama, lit. season law), biological laws (bijaniyama, lit. seed law), psychological laws
(cittaniyama, lit. mind law), moral laws (kammaniyama, lit. action law) and causal laws
(dhammaniyama, lit. reality law). (Samyuttanikaya II 25 states as synonyms dhammatthitata
dhammaniyamata idappaccayata). Causal laws operate within the first four spheres as well as among
Thus all cosmic laws, physical, biological, psychological and moral, interact with one another, and man
experiences weal or woe, happiness or unhappiness according to the nature of moral energy he
generates. If wholesome moral energy is widespread, there is peace in society and life is
comparatively happy and comfortable. If unwholesome moral energy is widespread, strife in society is
similarly rampant and life becomes more and more troublesome.
The sixth and fifth Centuries B.C. can be cited as an exceptionally fortunate era when morally
wholesome energy was poured out through the teachings of spiritual giants such as the Buddha, Jina
Mahavira, Zoroastra, Confucius and Socrates, from different quarters of the world. The twentieth
century seems to be the direct opposite of that era. Crime, terrorism and war reign supreme in the
world today. Famine, starvation and malnutrition have engulfed many of the third world countries.
AIDS and other luxury-related deadly diseases are rampant in affluent countries. This state of affairs
reminds us of a commentarial statement regarding the fate of mankind in a morally bankrupt world.
According to that, when mankind comes under the grip of greed, hatred and delusion, its downfall is
brought about by famine, fire/weapons, and disease respectively (Dighanikaya Atthakatha III 854).
The situation in the modern world is such that all three morally unwholesome motivational roots seem
to be active and man is receiving three-pronged retribution for his own immoral actions.
Another important point raised in the Agganna Sutta is that man is a creature with a strong tendency
for imitation (ditthanugatim apajjamana). Therefore new ideas, actions and behaviour on the part of a
few, quickly become new trends in society, especially when they are pleasure-oriented and
economically attractive. Aided by modern mass media and commercial propaganda, sensualism,
aggressiveness, hunger for wealth, status and power have become social trends in the modern world.
According to our thinking, this imitative tendency is not the only cause responsible for these current
trends, as they seem to be aided by the collective consciousness of mankind (called dhammadhatu in
Pali) which envelops the whole world. We therefore tend to argue that terra firma is covered over by a
biosphere and an atmosphere into which is absorbed what we prefer to be called the psychosphere.
Our argument for putting forward this idea is as follows:
The Samannaphalasutta (Dighanikaya I.76) states that the mind is interwoven with the body, and that
it can be seen to be so by one who has developed the fourth jhana, like a coloured thread that passes
through a transparent gem. It can be surmised that the mind is associated with the air element in the
body because the breathing pattern changes with emotional changes, e.g., we sigh when we are sad,
we yawn when we are lazy, we snort when angry and gasp in pain. These changes can be accepted as
conclusive proof that the mind and breath are fused together. It is scientifically known that the carbon
dioxide level of the exhaled breath increases under negative emotional stress. This may be because
the breath has absorbed from the bloodstream toxic chemical properties added to the blood from the
endocrine glandular secretions when the mind is charged with negative emotions such as anger and
fear. When large masses of people pour out such psychogenic venom with each exhalation, the
atmosphere gets polluted in a subtle way, and it is very probable that sentient beings and even
vegetation are sensitive to this type of pollution. It is experimentally known that plants thrive much
better in an environment of peace and love, but they tend to get stunted or they wither away when
harshly treated with violent abusive words even though both groups are equally well provided with
water, manure, sunlight and horticultural care.
According to scientific thinking air pollution with increased carbon dioxide is due to fossil fuel burning
which in the long run would contribute to global warming with catastrophic effects on human wellbeing. It is now conjectured that the disappearance of the dinosaurs from the face of the earth is due
to reduction of oxygen level and increase of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. The present situation of
environmental pollution is far more grave than that which caused the extinction of those enormous

beasts, as carbon dioxide is produced by machines unknown during the dinosaur age. While metal
machines physically pollute the atmosphere, billions of human machines also add psychogenic toxins
to the carbon dioxide they breathe out. Therefore we venture to argue that pollution in the
psychosphere is a crucial factor in the environmental crisis man is faced with today. Even the physical
pollution caused by emissions from machinery and over-exploitation of natural resources is the result
of man's greed for luxury, wealth and power. It is therefore possible to conclude that the
environmental pollution is really the external manifestation of the internal moral pollution of modern
As man's moral disposition has a direct deep-rooted relationship with the environmental crisis
Vipassana meditation offers a relevant practical method to effect a wholesome attitudinal change in
man to give him a sense of direction and goal in life, and also help him restore the sustainability of
Taking a phrase from Erich Fromm we can say that man has to change his attitude from the 'having
mode' to the 'being mode' of life. Man motivated by the 'having mode' tries to satisfy his greed
extracting as much as possible from nature, thus leading to excessive exploitation bringing in its wake
all the ills of pollution and depletion. Man inspired by the being mode on the other hand utilizes
nature's resources to satisfy his needs and this attitude leads to conservation and sustainability of
nature. It is interesting to note that ancient Indian Languages such as Sanskrit and Pali do not even
have a verbal root 'to have'. The idea of having has to be expressed periphrastically. If one wishes to
say 'I have sons and wealth' in Pali one must say Putta me atthi dhanam atthi, which literally means
'to me there are sons, there is wealth'. Thus the being mode had been so ingrained in the human
heart of ancient Indian culture even language lacked a verbal root 'to have'.
Vipassana meditation teaches man to lead a simple life satisfying his needs. Appicchata, the ability to
be satisfied with little is methodically cultivated as a virtue of great value. If it is cultivated collectively
by mankind, giving up the present trend of consumerism, much of the sting of the eco-crisis can be
mitigated. All the ills of large-scale deforestation such as soil erosion, landslides, changes in weatherpattern, drought, etc. are fundamentally related to consumerism. Without changing to a simple life
style an effective solution to these life threatening problems cannot be worked out.
Metta forms a part and parcel of the meditative life. If one practises metta one would refrain from
over-exploitation and overconsumption out of sympathy for future generations too as non-renewable
natural resources are fast diminishing due to demands made by the present consumerist life style.
Practising metta man would also have sympathy for other species and forms of life which are
threatened by extinction today. It is strategically important to remember that natural bio-diversity is
extremely valuable for a healthy balanced eco-system.
Vipassana meditation cleanses man of his psychological impurities. Nature can cope with the biological
impurities produced by man, but nature cannot help nor cope with the psychological pollution
produced by man. Hence the spread of crime, terrorism and war like an epidemic in society, pollution
related diseases threatening human life, and the imminence of large scale destruction through
ecological imbalance and pollution.
Let us come back to the Buddha's statement: cittena niyyati loko, that the world operates through the
human mind. So long as the human mind is motivated by morally wholesome intentions, man can lead
a comparatively happy life and nature would be manageably hospitable. When the motivational roots
are evil, man experiences misery as is maintained by the first two verses in the Dhammapada. Now it
appears that evil is so widespread that even nature has been adversely affected, rendering it more
inhospitable. The environmental crisis has to be treated as the result of a moral crisis.
Man has to cultivate a morally wholesome attitude and lifestyle for a change for the better and this
has to be accepted as a survival imperative.

Vipassana-Its Relevance to the Individual and Society - by Usha Modak

Modern life is moving at such a rapid pace that there is no time even to breathe. Our fiercely
competitive world is like a rat-race where, in spite of all the technological and economic improvements
and multifarious pleasures, people are still unhappy. Humankind has made tremendous progress in the
fields of science, industry, and political systems, etc., resulting in materialistic development. Man is
the promoter and consumer of these advancements, which aim at improving our standard of living and
total well-being.
But does this really happen? Look at the so-called "developed countries" of the world, which try to
ensure a high standard of living. Despite their advances in such fields as health, education and
technology, they are experiencing an increased incidence of mental illness, delinquency, crime, drug
addiction, alcoholism, and suicide, etc.
Every society is made up of individuals. The individual in a modern society is a victim of varying
degrees of stresses and strains. His or her existence is full of constant conflict between the world
within and the world outside. The materialistic world holds humans under an hypnotic spell. Engaged
all the time in filling their stomachs by earning and spending money, people are slaves of their own
cravings, euphemistically called ambition, aspiration, aims or ideals. These, alas, are seldom fulfilled,
which causes deep distress, frustration and dissatisfaction, whether one belongs to the "Haves" or the
Suffering, then, is a common problem of humanity. It is a universal disease, not the bane of any one
nation, or persons of any particular colour or creed. So the remedy must also be universal. Vipassana
offers such a remedy.
The basis of any healthy, harmonious society is always the healthy, harmonious individual. Only if each
individual has a pure, peaceful mind can we expect peace and harmony in the society. Vipassana is a
unique technique for obtaining peace and harmony within an individual at the experiential level.
The great sage of India, Gotama the Buddha, discovered-or rather rediscovered-this technique
through his deep meditation. He attained enlightenment through this technique and was liberated
from all the defilements of the mind. Then with great compassion and love, he distributed it to the
suffering mankind. He did not establish any "ism" or "cult." He taught Vipassana-a way to purify the
mind of its negativities of craving and aversion.
What is Vipassana?
It is not a rite or ritual based on blind faith. There is no visualization of any god, goddess or any other
object, or verbalization of any mantra or japa. Neither is it an intellectual nor philosophical
The word vipassana is derived from passa (to look, to observe) and vi (in a special way). It means
"observing oneself in a special way". It is a technique that purifies the mind, deconditioning the
negativities of anger, hatred, greed, selfishness etc. by self-observation and introspection. It is insight
meditation. It is looking at things as they are and not through coloured glasses. It is an effort to
change the deep habit-pattern of the mind which dwells in the continuous blind reactions of craving
and aversion.
Vipassana is taught in a basic ten-day residential course. The course is very demanding, requiring the
student to observe noble silence and follow strict rules of discipline. The daily schedule requires, on an
average, ten hours of meditation, with regular breaks. Instructions are given periodically throughout
the day, and every evening there is a videotaped discourse by the Teacher, S.N. Goenka which
explains and clarifies the day's practice.
There are three steps to the training given in a Vipassana course. The first is the observance of five
basic precepts of morality which, in practice, means abstention from violence, lying, theft, sexual

misconduct and the use of alcohol and other intoxicants. In short, observance of these precepts means
right action, right speech, and right livelihood. Whenever one violates these, one generates impurities
in one's mind. These impurities are the root cause of the stresses and strains from which one tries to
gain release.
When you start practising Vipassana, deep inside you understand that every time you break any one
of these precepts, you have started harming yourself, even before you start harming others. When
you generate anger, you cannot possibly experience peace and harmony since you feel so agitated, so
miserable. This is the law of Nature. It is a universal truth.
The next step is to achieve some mastery over our unruly minds by focussing attention on the natural
and normal breath (not controlled and regulated breath as in pranayama). This is called Anapana-sati,
which means "awareness of respiration." There is no verbalization or visualization, just observation of
natural and normal breath! This concentration helps to sharpen the mind. This helps the meditator to
take the next step of Vipassana, where he or she is required to observe the sensations that manifest
in the entire body every moment, as a result of the constant and continuous interaction of mind and
Our minds are constantly reacting to pleasant and unpleasant happenings in the world outside. But a
deep investigation of the mind through Vipassana reveals that when we react, we are actually reacting
to the body sensations that result from our contact with the outside world or our own thoughts. When
a thought arises, it manifests as a sensation on the body-pleasant or unpleasant-and one starts to like
or dislike it. This is a law of Nature. Soon those likes and dislikes begin to consolidate and develop into
negativities of craving and aversion. One starts tying knots deep in the unconscious mind. We create
misery for ourselves by continuously reacting to the sensations.
In this technique we train the mind to observe all the sensations with detachment and equanimity-that
is, without developing craving for pleasant sensations or aversion towards unpleasant or painful ones.
As one proceeds on this path, one experiences that all sensations, whether pleasant or unpleasant,
are constantly changing. They are impermanent, (anicca) and essenceless (anatta)- without any
substance. This is the inherent nature of everything that exists in the Universe, whether animate or
inanimate. One begins to understand experientially, not merely from book knowledge.
When one begins to be non-reactively aware of the different sensations, pleasant or unpleasant, the
entire mass of the mind gradually becomes conscious and aware. The barrier between the conscious
and unconscious mind is broken, and one stops reacting blindly. The mental purification- cleaning,
deconditioning-strikes at the root-level, that is, the unconscious mind, where our deep-rooted
defilements are stored like sleeping volcanoes which cause us so much misery when they erupt.
To attain a stage which is free from these sleeping volcanoes, one has to walk on the Path oneself. It
does not happen overnight. One needs a long and sincere practice of Vipassana with a proper
understanding of the technique. As you progress on the Path, you learn to observe more objectively
your own impurities of anger, hatred, envy, pride, jealousy, etc. more objectively.
Vipassana is, therefore, a process of self-purification through self-observation and introspection. It is a
technique of non-verbal, self-administered "psychoanalysis" in that it sets into motion the process of
tension-release. One is able, as it were, to operate on one's own mind and observe it as a witness.
There is, therefore, no "gurudom" in this technique. You have to tread the Path yourself. No one else
can do it for you.
One does not become a seasoned practitioner by taking just one ten-day course. The ten-day course
only gives you a framework. It should be followed by regular practise in daily life and by taking more
ten-day courses as boosters to help one become established in the practice. It is only then that one
reaps the real benefits and realizes the full potential of this technique. There are longer courses of
twenty, thirty and forty-five days which enable students to get further established in the practice.
Practising seriously over a period of time, the mind gradually gets liberated from the negative habits of

craving and aversion and their offshoots such as jealousy, ill will, selfishness and greed. One becomes
peaceful and harmonious and then distributes this peace and harmony to others.
How does Vipassana help in daily living?
The progress on the path of Vipassana is not measured by how many courses one has taken, or how
many years one has been practising, but by how equanimous one has become in daily living. You reap
the benefits of Vipassana here and now. The first attack is on the ego, which begins to melt
progressively as the cleaning process starts.
One student reported that during his stormy adolescent years he had acute differences of opinion with
his parents. He left his parental home in great anger, never to see them again. He had not seen them
for nearly ten years in spite of their several attempts to contact him. When he came for a Vipassana
course, his ego began to dissolve and he began to perceive his own shortcomings. He felt extremely
miserable, but was able to consider his parents' point of view. He was able to see the situation from
different angles, and not only through his coloured glasses. He decided to write to his parents and tell
them of his whereabouts, return home and talk it over with them.
Mere advice and counselling do not help. It is only when our perception begins to change that we are
able to observe a situation in its totality. As the layers of mental impurities begin to peel off, through
the practice of Vipassana, there is greater clarity of thinking. We begin to develop better judgment of
people and situations. This, in turn, helps to improve our relationships with other people. We become
less and less demanding of people: family members, children, neighbours, colleagues, subordinates,
etc. With greater clarity of thinking our decision-making ability, both in private and work life, becomes
more appropriate and effective.
Another student who was a nurse reported how Vipassana helped reduce her nervousness. She was
attached to the Crisis Department of a hospital. The sight of blood and mauled bodies of accident
cases would simply paralyze her. She could have asked for a transfer from the department, but she
decided to face the problem and not run away from it. With regular practice of Vipassana, she
gradually became more stable and balanced. This greatly impressed the doctors and her colleagues.
Her work in the service of her patients was now more effective.
When our minds undergo a cleaning process, our capacity to work increases many-fold. The energy
that was being consumed in our struggle with tensions, emotional blocks, and a narrow-minded egocentred way of living-this now gets channelled more profitably. Our work efficiency increases both
qualitatively and quantitatively.
A commonly expressed doubt is: Does this technique with its emphasis on equanimity make one
inactive? No, it does not. A responsible person in society has to be full of action. What goes away is
the habit of blind reaction. We learn to take proper action with positive feeling.
Apart from the purification of the mind, which is the primary goal of the technique, the meditator also
experiences gains at the physical and psychological level. Many common ailments such as
hypertension, headaches, ulcers, acidity, etc., are very often psychosomatic. These are automatically
cured as a by-product of the cleansing process of Vipassana.
Many drug addicts and alcoholics have found a total cure as a result of regular practice of Vipassana.
Many students who practise Vipassana regularly, keep reporting that their concentration, memory and
ability to grasp the material they read has improved tremendously. One student who had given up his
college studies midway and was on tranquillizers is now free of pills. He went back to his studies and
has now completed them.
All these gains are only by-products of the cleansing process of Vipassana. They should never be the
motive for the practice of Vipassana, as this is a devaluation of this exalted technique which takes
human beings to such great heights in liberating the mind of its impurities.

Vipassana, if practised correctly and with proper understanding, progressively makes one a better
individual. This, in turn, enables one to make a positive and constructive contribution to the society in
which one lives. One learns the art of constructive social living which promotes positive social
Concluding Remarks
Vipassana is a technique which has a very practical approach. It not only helps us to pass through the
vicissitudes of life in a detached way, but it also promotes social well-being. It is, therefore, a science,
not only of self-development but also of social development. It is an art of living whereby we learn to
live in peace and harmony with our own selves and with others.
To summarize, the characteristic features of Vipassana are:
1. It is a universal technique which can be practised by anyone belonging to any country, caste or
2. It strikes at the roots of our defilements in the unconscious mind and breaks the barrier between
the conscious and unconscious layers of the mind.
3. There is no place for imagination in this technique, no verbalization of any mantra or visualization of
any god or goddess, or any other object. The practice starts from experience of the apparent truth of
body and mind and proceeds towards realization of the subtle and absolute Truth.
4. It is a highly individualistic and experiential method of meditation. Man must walk on the Path
himself. No one else can make the effort for him or liberate him from the impurities of the mind.
Hence there is no "gurudom" in this technique.
5. One reaps the benefits of this technique here and now, as one progressively becomes a better

DharmaIts Role in Current Social Problems

Sally McDonald
There have always been social problems, ranging from simple family or village disputes to tribal
conflicts, and then later to state rivalries and international wars. There have always been individuals
who suffer from unhealthy surroundings, or from discrimination, seemingly unfair burdens of misery
and oppression, and who react with fear and mistrust. There have always been individuals and groups
who try to change or repair the wrongs of society, and at times despair that anything can be done.
All of these problems start with the same cause: the forces of hatred, greed and ignorance that exist
in all of our individual minds. It is therefore at the individual level that the solution lies.
We can define Dharma as a scientific path of self-introspection and wisdom, of not reacting with
negativity and of cultivating positive mental qualities instead. To succeed, it involves diligent practice,
not just theorising and discussion.
The role of Dharma in current social problems therefore appears to be threefold:
to eliminate the mental defilements that cause us to do wrong, so that we do not add to the problems
and suffering in our society;

to help us bear the stress of competitiveness, crowded or polluted environments, and (for those who
are less fortunate) the seeming injustices of life; and
to give us strength to serve and improve our society.
When the individuals in society do not follow the path of Dharma, the path of wisdom, then ignorance
prevails and all the social ills are bound to come into play.
What Is New?
Today the world is a very different place from the world of even one hundred years ago. The problems
we face are aggravated by the following:
The sheer size of the world's population, especially in developing countries such as India, China and
the African nations.
The increasingly global nature of economics and politics, so that problems in one country have
repercussions in the countries where they trade or wield power.
The complexity of modern technology, especially that of modern warfare. This means that those
individuals who understand and control this technology have unprecedented power.
Huge changes in how we communicate: faster and easier local, national and international telephone,
fax and computer links, plus mass-media news and entertainment.
The rapid rate of change in how we work. This has led to increased competitiveness and stress in the
workplace, and greater pressure on students in universities and schools. Physical and mental health
suffer as a result.
An increase in the number of social outcasts, who populate the worlds slums, jails and psychiatric
All of these mean that there is an even greater need for solutions, solutions which involve flexible,
intelligent, clear, and compassionate thinking. We need solutions which require not only knowledge
and resources but, more important, wisdom.
Let us look at some of our current responses to these problems and how they can be improved by
applying the principles of Dharma.
Improving on Current Responses
Existing Social Structures which Provide Moral Support
The traditional social institutions of family, schools and religious groups have always had a role in
providing moral support and guidance. Their diminishing influence is often blamed on the lack of
respect in today's youth, and the youth in turn blame the older generation for its inflexibility and
clinging to old-fashioned ways.
The faults on both sides are outcomes of the same mental defilement: craving, along with its offspring
attachment. If the youth of today can be educated in the science of pure Dharma instead of narrow,
sectarian beliefs, they will naturally cultivate respect for those who teach them. They can also realise
for themselves the danger in the endless pursuit of new experiences, and learn contentment. Likewise,
the older generation can learn from pure Dharma the futility of clinging to rites and rituals.
We should use such education to strengthen our existing social support structures, rather than try to
replace them with remedial institutions.
A German meditator who is a school- teacher has taught his class of fifteen-year-olds the technique of
Anapana meditation, which is mindfulness of respiration. He said that instead of taking ten minutes for

the class to stop laughing, shouting, banging desks, and finally settle down to listen to him, they now
do five minutes of meditation, then quietly take out their books and immediately start the days
Social Welfare and Remedial Institutions.
Although it is preferable to foster a society in which the individuals are responsible for their own wellbeing, we also need safety nets to help those who have fallen by the wayside, and those who have
been discriminated against. There are many reactions to the pressures of modern life. Some seek
escape in the madness of material desire, and fall into debt and despair. Others seek the mental void
of alcohol and drugs. Others react with violence, vandalism and crime.
As mentioned above, the role of Dharma in solving such problems is threefold. First: it helps to
remove the underlying defilements that create such reactions. Second: It helps the less fortunate to
bear their suffering. Third: it strengthens those involved in helping such people, the social workers,
doctors and so on.
One example is in the area of prison reform. The historic courses in Tihar Jail have already been
mentioned. Discipline has improved and there is greater harmony between the inmates and staff, as
representatives of both have learned the technique of self-introspection. A psychological study by the
Department of Psychiatry of the All India Institute of Medical Sciences is in progress. Early results
show that meditation reduces hostility and helplessness and leads to enhanced well-being and hope.1
The Inspector General of Tihar has encouraged the prisoners not only to improve themselves, but to
become useful members of society when they are released.
Other examples can be found in the area of drug rehabilitation. Proven results in treating drug addicts
in Australia have been reported at a previous seminar.2 A very successful program called "Start Again"
is now under way in Switzerland, managed by several meditators. Because of its achievements in the
past three years, funding has been increased and the program has been expanded considerably.
Legislation, Law and Order
There are so many laws now which attempt to restrict anti-social human activities. As well as the old
codes which outlaw murder, rape, stealing and cheating, there are increasing complex laws about the
use and distribution of drugs, about business ethics, patents and copyrights, and so on. In many
countries, there are detailed laws trying to stop racial discrimination or casteism, and to promote
equal opportunities for women. There are so many examples where these laws fail, even when they
are diligently enforced. "All the upbeat formulations in the world cannot disguise the distortions and
inefficiencies that affirmative action programmes have failed to address and, in some cases, have
helped to create."3
Naturally, it helps to have some guidelines, but we cannot force anyone to be inherently moral or
compassionate towards others by making laws. Again, the answer lies at the individual level. There
has to be a way that people learn to follow the spirit rather than just the letter of the law. The
foundation of Dharma is morality, but it is only by developing mental clarity that we can fully
comprehend its importance.
A young American woman did a ten-day course here in India recently, during this hot season. She had
been sitting still and meditating for about half an hour, and felt a lot of heat and pain in her body.
Then a mosquito came buzzing around her head. A thought came about killing the mosquito. She
noticed that now the heat was almost unbearable, and that the pain had intensified, and realised that
this was the result of her anger. She had understood for herself how we increase our own misery when
we think of harming other beings.
Such insights naturally help individuals to stop causing harm, and also to develop compassion towards
other suffering beings. This is the only way that society can become more law-abiding and more
tolerant, not by making more laws about how to behave.

Science and Technology

There have been great strides in medical research to alleviate human suffering due to disease and old
age. There have been improvements in agricultural methods and in communications. In many
countries, people live longer, lead more comfortable lives and also have more leisure time. However,
the benefits of science are matched by the disadvantages: by the stresses of modern life we have
already mentioned, and by environmental degradation and pollution.
Mass-media news reporting has led to greater awareness of the worlds problems, but mass-media
"entertainment" has often degenerated into senseless promotion of violence and sexual fantasy, that
is, to mental pollution. Multi-national corporations have seized this tool of communication to promote
consumerism and to enhance their wealth and power.
What is needed is pure volition and wisdom in applying this new knowledge. Scientists and the users
of their machines and techniques need to also study Dharma, to study their own mental and material
phenomena, their own motives and actions, as well as studying the material world.
Powerful World Organisations
The horrifying problems of racial tension and terrorism, the recent nightmares we are hearing about
in Africa, the ongoing poverty in so many parts of the world, are not going to be overcome easily.
Powerful organisations with multi-million-dollar resources such as the United Nations and the World
Bank have been unable to solve most of these problems. The USA, the remaining superpower, is at
present evaluating its relationship with the rest of the postCold War world.4 There is a growing
reluctance in many of its citizens to get involved in foreign problems it has been unable to solve by
military or economic means.
There is limited benefit in trying to change "the system" using political or welfare measures, when the
underlying human defilements such as anger, craving and fear continue to exist. In any organisation,
large or small, humanitarian aims will not be properly served if the people in it, especially the leaders,
are working with narrow-minded, selfish interests and prejudices. Changes therefore must start in
small ways, first in individuals, and then in groups of people who try to co-operate and incorporate the
principles of Dharma in their lives and work. Later on, as the teaching of pure Dharma spreads, we
can expect to see larger organisations applying the wisdom of Dharma in improving the world.
Breaking Down the Barriers
The practice of Vipassana meditation is now spreading throughout the world, and there is a great deal
of international co-operation involved. At all of the Vipassana centres, people come from different
states and different countries to give service for the benefit of others. Dr.S.N. Goenka and assistant
teachers from India have conducted Vipassana courses in the West, and now you will find assistant
teachers from Western countries conducting courses in Indonesia or Israel. The meditators from
Western Europe have organised courses in former socialist countries, and have started a fund for
courses in Africa. Other funds have been set up in the West to help the struggling nations in Southeast
Asia, where the demand for courses is enormous, and in South America.
About 25,000 people attend courses in India each year, and about 8,000 in the rest of the world. They
come from all walks of life. There are business and community leaders who try to incorporate the
principles of Dharma in their organisations.5 Eleven thousand schoolchildren attended courses last
year.6 You will also see uneducated village women and the poorer classes starting to come to Dhamma
Giri. They often cannot give much for a donation; it is a struggle for them to pay their train fare to
Igatpuri, yet somehow all the centres keep growing. The growth rate is about 20 to 25 per cent each
If this growth continues, there is a tremendous potential to break down many long-standing historical
barriers, racial, social and economic. However, it must be said again, change must come at the
individual level; all must take responsibility. Sometimes there are even more problems when our aim
is for the good of society. Even when our volition is good, we have to face our own weaknesses whilst

fighting against prejudice, greed and resistance to change in society. For this, great strength is
By incorporating pure Dharma in our lives, we develop in confidence, in determination in our efforts, in
awareness, in concentration, and in wisdom and equanimity. If we use these strengths in helping pure
Dharma to spread, others will also find out how to break down the barriers of their mental impurities.
In this way, all the barriers of intolerance and distrust in society can be broken, to establish greater
peace and harmony in the world.

K Chandirimani, S.K. Verma, P.L. Dhar & N. Aggarwal, "Psychological Effects of Vipassana on Tihar Jail
Inmates: A Preliminary Report", VipassanaIts Relevance to the Modern World, an International
Seminar, April 1994. Vipassana Research Institute, Igatpuri.
Hammersley, R & Cregan, J, "Drug Addiction and Vipassana Meditation", Seminar on Vipassana
Meditation, May 1987, Vipassana Research Institute, Igatpuri.
"Affirmative ActionBut some are more equal than others", The Economist, April 15th 1995, London.
Ogden, C., "Uncle Sam Hunkers Down", International Time Magazine, April 17th, 1995. New York.
Shah, J., "Vipassana and Business Management" VipassanaIts Relevance to the Modern World, an
International Seminar, April 1994. Vipassana Research Institute, Igatpuri.
Vipassana Annual Conference Report, January 1995. Vipassana Research Institute, Igatpuri.

VipassanaA Practical Solution

Ian Hetherington

Suppose we accept that Dharma or Dhamma, a universal law of nature, exists. Simply by
observing the world around us night and day, the seasons, the cycle of birth, life and
death affecting all living beingswe are aware of this law. Scientists probe to discover still
more abstract patterns in the universe. We might also concede that karma or kamma, the
law of cause and effect, fuelled by our actions of body, speech and mind, is equally timeless
and real when applied to human behaviour. We may accept these propositions at the
emotional, devotional or intellectual level because they accord with our pre-existing view of
the world. This is of limited practical use, however, because it cannot free us from the
hatred, fear, anger, passion and other impurities stored in the depths of the mind, which
continually overpower us in everyday life. Some way of obtaining direct access to Dharma,
the law working within and without us, is required. For liberation, for lasting happiness, we
need to develop wisdom based on personal experience of our own internal reality.
Vipassana is a technique for this purpose.

What Vipassana Is

Vipassana meditation is a method of self- observation. In the ancient language of India, passana
meant to look, to see with open eyes, in the ordinary way. But vipassana is to observe things as they
really are, not merely as they seem to be. Apparent truth has to be penetrated until one reaches the
ultimate truth of the entire mental and physical structure. It is a logical process of mental purification
leading gradually towards full enlightenment. Vipassana meditation is the essence of what the Buddha
practiced and taught. It is a straightforward, practical way to achieve peace of mind and to live a
happy, useful life. The meditation does not encourage people to withdraw from society, rather it
strengthens them to face all the ups and downs of life in a calm and balanced way. The approach can
be summarized in a few short lines:

To abstain from evil,

To do good,
To purify the mind.
Simple objectives but so difficult to practice.

Learning the Technique

To learn Vipassana it is necessary to take a ten-day residential course under the guidance of a
qualified teacher. During the retreat students remain within the course site, having no contact with the
outside world. Reading, writing and all religious practices are suspended.

Students follow a demanding daily schedule, which includes about ten hours of sitting meditation.
They also observe silence, not communicating with fellow students; however, they are free to discuss
meditation questions with the teacher and material problems with the management.

The day begins at 4:30 AM with students meditating in their rooms or in the hall, where a chanting
tape is played. Breakfast is served at 6:30, followed by group meditation in the hall and instructions
from the teacher. Individual meditation then continues and the teacher checks students on their
progress. Old students (meditators who have completed at least one Vipassana course in this
tradition, are allocated individual cells to enable them to work more independently and seriously.
Lunch is taken at 11:00; simple, nutritious, vegetarian food is served. A two-hour break in the middle
of the day gives meditators an opportunity to rest, do their washing or exercise outside. The teacher is
available for individual student interviews at this time. Meditation and checking continue in the
afternoon. Tea and fruit for new students and lemon water for old students are served at 5:00. After
the final session of group meditation, a taped evening discourse by S.N. Goenka clarifies each days
practice. The teacher is again available after the discourse to answer questions and students retire to
bed by 9:30.

There is no charge whatsoever for the teaching. Costs are met by the donations of grateful students of
past courses who have experienced the benefits of Vipassana, and who wish to give others the same

unique opportunity. Neither the teacher nor the assistant teachers (over 250 appointed to date)
receive remuneration; they and those who serve the courses volunteer their time.

Training the Mind

To learn Vipassana, there are three steps to the training.

First, students practice abstaining from actions which cause harm. They undertake five moral
precepts: practicing abstention from killing, stealing, sexual misconduct, wrong speech and the use of
intoxicants. Following these precepts allows the mind to calm down sufficiently to proceed further.

Second, for the first three-and-a-half-days, students practice Anapana meditation, focusing attention
on the breath. This practice helps to develop control over the unruly mind.
These first two stepsof living a wholesome life and developing control of the mindare necessary
and very beneficial. But they are incomplete unless the third step is taken: purifying the mind of
underlying negativities. This step occupies the last six and a half days of the course. It is undertaken
by the practice of Vipassana: one penetrates one's entire physical and mental structure with the clarity
of insight.

Complete silence is observed for the first nine days. On the tenth day, students resume speaking,
making the transition back to a more extroverted way of life.
The course finishes on the morning of the eleventh day. The retreat closes with the practice of mettabhavana (loving-kindness or goodwill to all), in which the purity developed during the course is shared
with all beings.

Although Vipassana is a part of the Buddha's Teaching, it contains nothing of a sectarian nature, and
can be accepted and applied by people of any background. Courses are open to anyone sincerely
wishing to learn the technique, irrespective of race, caste, faith or nationality. Hindus, Jains, Muslims,
Sikhs, Buddhists, Christians, Jews as well as members of other religions have all successfully practiced

Many leading members of religious groups have learned the technique and courses have been
organized in traditional places of worship.

Vipassana in Everyday Life

Having taken a ten-day course the meditator is his or her own master. There is no gurudom in
Vipassana. Equipped with an outline of the technique, the lay meditator faces the challenge of
maintaining a daily practice and applying Dharma in everyday life, alongside routine work and family
responsibilities. With strong determination initial difficulties will be overcome. Weekly sittings with
other local meditators, giving service at a centre, or taking a weekend short course are just some of
the very practical ways in which one can support and strengthen ones practice. With continuity of
practice the meditator will assuredly taste the fruits of success, enabling him or her to become firmly
established in Dharma.
Students are encouraged to evaluate their own progress on the path using various criteria, such as:

Instead of hurting others, have I started helping them?

How am I behaving in unwanted situationsam I reacting as before, with the same intensity of
agitation and for the same length of time, or am I remaining more balanced?

Am I becoming less self-centred, giving generously without expectation of anything in return,

showing compassion to the needy, developing gratitude towards those who help me?

Am I establishing my meditation on a sound foundation by keeping the five moral precepts in daily

From the beginning meditators are encouraged to become self-dependent in their practice. It is
emphasized that whilst enlightened devotion to gods or saintly persons is helpful on the path if one
tries to develop these same good qualities in oneself, liberation from mental impurity is the individuals
responsibility. One has to work out one's own salvation and not look to external agencies to act on
ones behalf.

A Technique for All

The Buddhas address to the people of the devoted Kalama clan in northern India twenty-five centuries
back is justly famous:

Do not simply believe any teaching you have heard. When you know for yourselves these things are
unwholesome ... then reject them. But whenever you know for yourselves that something is conducive
to welfare and happiness ... then accept it and live up to it.
His purpose was clearto invite all who sincerely wish to learn to make their own free, objective
enquiry into the nature of truth.

Any average person can learn, practice and benefit from Vipassana. But one has to work intelligently,
ensuring that awareness and equanimity develop in equal measure. Most people have some
appreciation of their own strengths and weaknesses. But this knowledge alone can lead to frustration,
apathy or even despair. How can I change? How can I be free of the tendency to act wrongly, despite
the best of intentions? Vipassana provides hope, strength and a practical tool for the realization of
every individual. With practice, this process of observation of breath and body sensations produces
wonderful results in everyday life.

To take a contemporary parallel: many nations, concerned about security, have invested in some kind
of early warning system in case of attack by a foreign power. The Vipassana meditator soon learns
that it is the enemy within oneself that requires maximum vigilance. And this same technique helps us
to develop our own internal early warning system, to counter the old habit of blind reaction. Through
the practice, we are taking proper preventive measures which are in our own and others interest,
rather than casting about for some remedy when the damage has already been done.

The Spread of Dharma

No-one should have any doubt about the non-sectarian nature of the technique. In teaching Vipassana
the Buddha had no intention of establishing a sect or starting a personality cult. Those who practice
are tasting the essence of pure Dharma; they are not getting converted into another religion. The
objects of meditation in Vipassana, the natural breath and actual bodily sensations, are deliberately
neutral. Similarly the complementary training in morality, mastery of mind and the development of
insight should be acceptable to all genuine seekers after truth. The malady is universal, therefore the
remedy likewise has to be universal. People from all backgrounds who practice Vipassana find that
they become better human beings. If leading figures in the fields of religion, politics, economics, the
professions, the arts, industry and business realise the potential for change which this technique
offers, and use their influence wisely, much can be done to improve the level of harmony and wellbeing in Indian society and elsewhere.

Vipassana is one of India's most ancient meditation techniques, but over the centuries it became lost
to the country. Fortunately the theory and practice were preserved in their purity by a chain of
devoted teachers in neighbouring Myanmar (Burma). Through uninterrupted transmission, from
generation to generation. This is how, by good fortune, we come to receive a technique as fresh and
effective today as it was in the Buddhas time. Vipassana was re-introduced to the land of its origin in
1969 by Mr S.N. Goenka, a disciple of the respected Burmese lay meditation master, Sayagyi U Ba
Khin. Since then people from all walks of life and many nationalities have benefited in growing
numbers from participating in courses. Some thirty centres now exist worldwide for the exclusive
teaching of this technique.

May pure Dharma continue to spread for the good and benefit of all beings.


Dharma and Science - Prof. P.L. Dhar

Inquisitiveness is one of the fundamental characteristics of human beings. Right from birth, a child
would like to know and understand the surrounding world. As the child grows up, he or she begins to
understand the cause-effect relationship between various events: putting a switch down lights a bulb,
putting an ice cube in a glass of soft drink cools it, placing a hand in fire heats itand we say, the
child is learning, gaining knowledge. Science is essentially a systematisation of all the knowledge that
humanity has gained about the external world, with the help of our senses.
As the child grows into maturity and experiences the various vicissitudes of life, sooner or later, he or
she begins to question: "What is the purpose of all thisbeing born, studying, earning, having
children, rearing a family, getting old and finally dying? Why so much sufferingcaused by illness, old
age, separation from loved ones, association with the wicked?" He begins to contemplate and
understand his own true nature, the real cause of his suffering, and the way out of it, and thus
becomes wiser. Dharma is essentially a systematisation of all the wisdom gained by humanity.
Viewed in this way, Dharma and science emerge as two complementary aspects of human endeavour.
As the Isa-Upanishad puts it, "He who has both spiritual wisdom (Dharma) and secular knowledge
(science) together keeps death at bay through the latter and experiences immortality through the
Science (especially its applied version, technology), gives us the necessary know-how to keep our
body in good shape; Dharma provides us with an understanding of the very purpose of our existence,
the "know-where". Clearly, for the harmonious development of any societyfor the harmonious
development of any individuala proper integration of science and Dharma is essential. This is
especially crucial in modern times, when the advances in science and technology have empowered us
enormously. However, from a lack of "wisdom", of Dharma, this advancement in science is leading only
to an increase in our sorrows: poisoning of land, air, water and of minds.

Misunderstandings about Dharma

The term "Dharma" literally means "natural law". Dharma is thus an exposition of the laws pertaining
to our inner world, just as science deals with the laws pertaining to the outer world. The difference
between science and Dharma is thus only a difference in the realm of enquiryas there are
differences between the various "departments" of science, such as physics, chemistry and botany. Yet
there is a perception of irreconcilability between science and Dharma.
Many factors are responsible for this perception, the first and foremost being the erroneous
understanding of both Dharma and science. Today, for most people, Dharma is synonymous with
sectarian religions, with priestcraft; they see it as a mumbo-jumbo of words and elaborate rites and
rituals, which can become the cause of internecine conflicts between neighbours, even though they
may have lived like brothers for generations. Above all, Dharma has become synonymous with a
stubborn resistance to any logical scrutiny of religious beliefs. No wonder the youth of today do not
want to touch it with a barge-pole! A modern, rational person who is not willing to accept anything on
authoritybe it the authority of a religious teacher or a sacred bookis therefore tempted to reject it
all often, even the eternal truths which are so badly needed to give direction to life will be rejected,
thus throwing the baby out with the bath-water! This process is catalysed by a scientific temperament,

which is equated with crass materialismfor hasnt science got an explanation for every phenomenon
on the basis of matter in motion under the influence of various forces? Therefore, anyone talking
about the existence of reality beyond sensory perception is usually dubbed as unscientifican ignorant
fool living in a world of his own fancies. In such a scenario, the integration of science and Dharma is
obviously impossible.
To change this situation there is clearly a need to present Dharma as a science, following a scientific
method, shorn of all extraneous socio-political adjuncts and metaphysical speculations. The scientific
attitude demands "induction from facts and not deduction from dogmas. We must face the facts and
derive our conclusion from them and not start with the conclusion and then play with the facts."2
Secondly, we also need to understand whether materialism, a legacy of nineteenth-century science, is
still endorsed by modern science. Fortunately, recent developments in science are questioning this
traditional world view, and thus a proper understanding of these developments can give a fillip to the
process of integrating science and Dharma.

Dharma as an Applied Science

The essence of the scientific approach was characterised by Thomson: "The aim of science is to
describe impersonal facts of experience in verifiable terms as exactly as possible, as simply as
possible, and as completely as possible."3
To become a rigorous science, Dharma must be presented as "the Law" which can be experienced by
all, not merely a select few. The various propositions have to be presented as hypotheses to be
accepted only on verification by experience, albeit personal and subjective,* and not on authority.
Also, such propositions should be rational and logical.
The teachings of the Buddha, one of the greatest spiritual scientists, meet these requirements. His
constant refrain to his disciples could easily be the advice of a modern humane scientist to young
Believe nothing merely because you have been told it, or because it is tradition, or because you
yourself have imagined it. Do not believe what your teacher tells you merely out of respect for him.
But whatever, after due examination and analysis, you find to be conducive to the good, the benefit,
the welfare of all beings, believe and cling to that doctrine, and take it as your guide.
The essence of Dharma, as put crisply by all the Enlightened Ones is "the eschewing of all evil, the
perfecting of good deeds, the purifying of ones mind."4
The simplicity of this enunciation, devoid of any esoteric pronouncement, may sometimes conceal its
profundity. However, its practical utility and universal applicability are quite obvious. Viewed in this
light, purifying the mind of its baser instincts is the quintessence of Dharma, since this would quite
naturally lead to performance of wholesome deeds. It also leads to the development of an insight into
the basic characteristics of life. This process of purification is not a mystic knowledge beyond the ken
of ordinary people. It is a strictly scientific technique open to anybody who is willing to learn and verify

the Quintessence of Dharma
The process of purification of mind is analogous to cleaning the turbid waters of a lake. Two
approaches are possible. One could use an external precipitating agent such as alum that chemically
forces all the impurities to settle down at the bottom of the lake. Alternatively, one could go inside the
lake, identify each and every impurity, and actually take it out. Clearly, the latter process is bound to
be more messy and will need more effort, but its advantages are quite obvious. With the former
method, we are only suppressing the impurities, but they are still very much there at the bottom. A
major storm or churning of the lake can bring them to the surface again. However, with the latter

method we have actually eliminated them and the lake will remain clean, so long as we do not add
fresh impurities to it. The ancient masters recognised both these approaches, that is to say either
suppression or elimination of the mental defilements.
If we divert our attention away from the defilements* as and when they arise (for example by
listening to music, or having a drink, or chanting a "holy" name, or some lofty auto-suggestion) the
intensity of these negative emotions abates quickly and we can get immediate relief. However these
defilements are not actually eradicated, but only suppressed. Modern psychology agrees that they
leave their impressions in the deeper recesses of the mind, in its subconscious and unconscious layers.
To remove the impurities of the mind, it is obviously necessary to identify them objectively, and it
turns out that this detached "observation" of the mental-physical structure is sufficient to eliminate
them. An incident from life of Swami Vivekananda illustrates this point. Once, as he was walking on a
street in Varanasi, some monkeys started chasing him. At first Swamiji tried to run from them, but the
monkeys kept pace and began to attack him. Just then an old man called out, "Face the brutes."
Swamiji turned and confronted the monkeys, and when he did they all fell back and fled.
The impurities of the mind are like these monkeys and the only way to eradicate them is to face them
squarelyto observe them without reacting. But how are we to observe these defilements? How does
one observe anger, for example, without actually getting overwhelmed by it?
The ancient masters who unravelled the complexities of body-mind phenomena with penetrating
insight discovered an important fact: "Whatever arises in the mind is accompanied by sensation"
(sabbe dhamma vedana samosarana).5 They also found that all our reactions to various situations are
in reality the reactions of the subconscious mind to bodily sensations. Now, while it is very difficult to
observe objectively abstract emotions such as anger or passion, it is comparatively easy to train the
mind to observe sensations (which carry the signatures of these emotions) in a detached manner. The
continuous practice of observing these bodily sensations objectively is the crux of Vipassana
meditation. Slowly, but surely, it grinds out the deep mental grooves of lifelong habitscraving for
pleasant experiences, avoiding the unpleasant, and ignoring neutral experiences. It thus gradually lifts
the veil which obscures from us the real characteristics of all body-mind phenomena: impermanence,
unsatisfactoriness and egolessness.
To be able to observe the sensations which keep on occurring continuously in various parts of the
body, a minimum level of concentration of the mind is obviously essential so that one does not get
easily distracted by the external and inner noises which are the hallmarks of our modern life.
The training of increasing the concentration of mind can be done in a variety of ways. In Vipassana,
the object of concentration is ones own breath. This practice is called Anapana, which literally means
incoming and outgoing breath. It involves bare observation of the normal, natural respiration with a
firm and steady attention, free from any strain. Again, there is no mystery about the choice of breath
as the object of concentration; there are many sound reasons for it. Firstly, breath is universally
acceptable, being non-sectarian. Also, it is readily available at any time and it is a neutral object: noone has any craving or aversion towards it. Focusing attention on such an object continuously for a
long period of time is, of course, quite difficult, given our present disposition, which only seeks
excitement through pleasant objects. But a systematic, persistent effort does make a dent in this
stubborn habit.
As a result we receive a foretaste of the fruits of equablenessa natural feeling of peace and
tranquillity accompanying the sharpening of the mind. One could have chosen an object of
concentration for which the meditator has some attraction or reverence. This would have made the
task of concentration much easier because of the natural attraction for the object, but, as is obvious,
this would only strengthen the mental habit of craving and thus take us away from the goal of
complete purification of mind.
An obvious prerequisite for such a training is the scrupulous observance of basic moral preceptsin
particular, abstention from killing, stealing, false speech, sexual misconduct, and intoxicantssince
their wilful violation would cause violent mental agitation, making it impossible to observe the mind-

body complex objectively. Vipassana practitioners can thus learn by experience the importance of
moral conduct for their own well-being. In this way morality and ethics thus become a scientific
discipline, which one accepts on the basis of ones own experience and not on account of social
pressures or respect for a teacher. This was the fond wish of Albert Einstein, one of the greatest
scientists of all times: "The foundation of morality should not be made dependent on myth nor tied to
any authority lest doubts about the myth or about the legitimacy of the authority imperil the
foundation of sound judgement and action."
From the above description of the basic features of Vipassana, it is apparent that it is an applied
science, a technology for inner development. In the true scientific spirit, all that it involves is mindful
observation, free from any admixture of prejudices or subjective judgements. Like any other modern
technology, it has a scientific basis which can be easily understood; and what is more important, its
results can easily be verified by personal experience, here and now. Ehi passiko, ehi passiko (come
and see, come and see) was the constant refrain of the Buddha. There is no rite or ritual, dogma or a
priori belief necessary for the meditation. Like any other technological skill it can be learnt by
systematic practice irrespective of one's caste, creed, religious belief or nationality.
Though its most important objective is to purify the mind of dross, Vipassana is not a mere detergent
to wash the dirt off the mental linens, and then to be left behind in the washroom after use. It is an
attitude to life, a fragrance which naturally envelops practitioners as they develop more and more
insight into the fundamental traits of human existence. It is an art of living equanimously in spite of
defeats and victories, praise and criticism, falling health and rising prices. It is the art of transcending,
and not suppressing, the sensory attractions. As the practice matures, one naturally develops a deep
insight into the fundamental laws of life and becomes harmonious with these. One becomes
established in Dharma.

Science and Materialism

It is historical fact that the rise of science in the post-Renaissance period was instrumental in
spreading a general belief in materialisma belief that matter is the sole reality. All the phenomena of
nature, ranging from the motion of the planets to the tides in the seas, could now be explained
rationally on the basis of well understood laws of nature. There was no need whatsoever for invoking
divine intervention. Even the origin of sentient beings could be "explained" on the basis of the
Darwinian theory of evolution.
Some people tried to further extend this theory to show that the simplest form of living protoplasm
could arise from non-living nitrogenous carbon compounds under suitable conditionsthus exploding
the age-old argument for the existence of God. Attempts were even made to explain consciousness
and thinking as arising from the functions of the ganglionic cells of the cortex of the brain. The
scientists of the last century firmly held that it should be possible to explain the universe with a few
score elements and half a dozen elementary forces.7 No wonder, for most people today, the scientific
approach is synonymous with a belief in materialism, a belief in the omnipotence of intellect, and any
suggestion about "transcending the intellect" is seen as unscientific.
This picture has, however, undergone considerable change in the last few decades. New developments
in science such as the theory of relativity and quantum mechanics, are bringing about a profound
change in our common-sense view of nature. Many illuminating books have been written in the last
two decades which bring out the various facets of this emerging change. We shall mention here only a
few of these points which seem most pertinent for our discussion.

Fundamental Nature of Matter

The quest for the basic building blocks of matter led scientists to what are often called fundamental
particles: electrons, protons, neutrons etc. The intuitive model of the atom which emerges from this
research is similar to the planetary systemwith a heavy nucleus (consisting of neutrons and protons)
at the centre of an immense void, and tiny electrons whirling round it at very high speeds. Naturally,

at first these fundamental particles were thought to be something similar to the classical particles,
albeit ultra-smallsomething like specks of dust often seen in the path of a ray of sunshine entering a
room. Belief in this concept has, however, been badly shaken by many discoveries. Experimental
studies showed that these particles they could be "created" out of energy and could "vanish" in energy
as predicted by Einstein's theory of the interconvertibility of matter and energy.
Now, since energy is a dynamic quantity associated with activity or with processes, the obvious
implication is that "a particle has to be conceived as a dynamic pattern, a process involving the energy
which manifests itself as the particle's mass".8 This is a picture which is in great contrast to our
common-sense notion of "mass" as belonging to an object, but in consonance with the insight of
ancient masters: "No doer is there; naught save the deed is... The path exists, but not the traveller
found on it".9
It will probably take even the scientific community many more years to fully come to terms with the
philosophical implications of Einsteins theory of relativity. Even today the import of Minkowski's oftquoted enunciation: "Space by itself and time by itself are mere shadows of a four-dimensional spacetime continuum which is an independent reality".10 We do not understand because we have no direct
sensory or even intuitive experience of this four-dimensional space-time continuum. Evidently our
perception of the world based on the common-sense view of absolute space and time is in error. The
situation is quite akin to the erroneous view of the prisoners of Plato's Republic, who never having
seen anything other than the shadows on the walls of their underground cave, mistook these for
An experience of this independent reality would clearly demand transcendence of the senses, coming
out of the "prison house of sight". This is a term which we find repeatedly in the ancient texts, but
something which would have been anathema to the nineteenth-century scientist. As Fritjof Capra,
quoting Swami Vivekananda, puts it, this space-time of relativistic physics is the Absolute of Eastern
sages: "Time, space and causation are like the glass through which the absolute is seen. In the
Absolute there is neither time, space nor causation."11 This conception thus gives scientific authority
(probably needed for the sceptics) to the vision of the ancient sages. Having experienced the
transcendent reality directly, they declared: "There is, brethren, an unborn, a not-become, a notmade, not-compounded."12

Understanding "Reality"
Another mind-boggling characteristic of these fundamental particles, which has defied all conventional
explanations is their ability to exhibit both "wave" and "particle" behaviour under certain experimental
The fundamental particles thus do not seem to possess any intrinsic nature waiting to be revealed to
an inquisitive observer. As summed up by Capra:
My conscious decision about how to observe, say, an electron will determine the electrons
properties to some extent. If I ask it a particle question, it will give me a particle answer. If I ask it a
wave question, it will give me a wave answer. The electron does not have objective properties
independent of my mind.
We could thus say, with Sir James Jeans, that, in the light of this discovery,
the universe begins to look more like a great thought than like a great machine. Mind no longer
appears as an intruder into the realm of matter ... but ... as the creator and the governor of the realm
of matternot of course our individual mind, but the Mind in which the atoms, out of which our
individual minds have grown, exist as thoughts.

Any further understanding of the nature of ultimate reality clearly demands an investigation into the
subtle mental planeself-analysis rather than analysis of the world around, thus merging Science with
It is also evident from the above description that an intuitive physical model of these fundamental
particles is not possible since our senses can only detect either particle motion, characterised by a
localisation of the object moving in a definite trajectory in space, or a wave motion, characterised by a
motion of the medium. This realisation forms the basis of one of the very important principles of
quantum mechanics: the Principle of Complementarity put forth by Niels Bohr. That is, in any
experiment with micro-particles, the observer gets information not about the "properties of the
particles themselves", but about the properties of the particles associated with some particular
situation. This includes, among other things, the measuring instruments. The information obtained
under some definite conditions should be considered as complementary to the information obtained
under different experimental conditions. Evidence obtained under experimental conditions cannot be
comprehended within a single picture, but must be regarded as various sides (complementing each
other) of a single realityto wit, the object under investigation.15
The social and philosophical implications of this principle are profound. It gives credence to the insight
of ancient masters that our attempts at understanding "reality" through the study of matter with the
senses are similar to the attempts of five blind men trying to comprehend an elephant by feeling it
with their hands. The evidence thus obtained can never be synthesized into the true picture. Clearly, it
follows that to comprehend the "reality" of matter, it is necessary to use some other mode of
gathering knowledgeaparokanubhuti or direct experience, as our ancient sages put it.
At the social level, this complementary principle points out that apparently contradictory views may
emerge from the same "reality". Wisdom lies in treating them as complementary; this is a message of
harmony needed so much in modern times when "appearances" often lead to unending conflicts. In
fact Bohr fervently hoped that the complementary principle would, in the near future, find a place in
school education.

A New World View

There have been many developments in other sciences such as biology, psychology, chemistry,
neurosciences, etc. All of these indicate the emergence of a new world view which repudiates
materialism, but is in consonance with the vision of the Eastern sages of yore. In fact many of the
insights of these sages remained unintelligible to the masses, based as they were on the transcendent
experience; but today they can be better appreciated in the light of these scientific facts.
One such fundamental insight, which is extremely difficult to comprehend on the basis of our
common-sense view of nature, is that of anattathe fact of egolessness. However, when modern
science tells us that the basic building block of matter is not a "being" but a manifestation of energy,
which is essentially a process of "becoming", this assertion seems to make sense. It is this seemingly
solid physical body, "my body", which creates the stubborn illusion of individuality. Modern biologists
point out that 98 per cent of the 1028 atoms of a typical human body are replaced annually from the
atoms of the surroundingsthe earth, the trees, the animals, in fact all living and non-living entities.
It thus becomes evident that one cannot talk of individual entities localised in space and time; we are
all partners in a biodance.16 Walt Whitman's poetic insight "Every atom belonging to me as good
belongs to you" is thus a scientific fact!
Molecular biology associates our individuality with the uniqueness of the genes. But here too it is the
pattern of the genes which remains the same and not the stuff of the genethe thousands of
individual carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, and other atoms that comprise it, which are in constant
exchange with the surroundings.16 So, even in the view of hard-core molecular biology, our
individuality is a non-material "entity", an abstract pattern of arrangement of various labile molecules.
When we couple this understanding with the impossibility of "exactly" locating any fundamental

particle, as revealed by Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle, and also with the fundamental
interconnectedness at quantum level, one is forced to agree with Capra:
The quantum field is seen as the fundamental physical entity; a continuous medium which is present
everywhere in space. Particles are merely local condensations of the field; concentrations which come
and go, thereby losing their individual character and dissolving into the underlying field.
This quantum field is obviously an impersonal entitythe nearest symbol which one can possibly
conceive of for the transcendent reality. As even a layman today would testify, a subset of this field
the electromagnetic fielddoes have the "power" to produce the splendid illusion of a "living being" in
every homeon television! One can thus appreciate that the fundamental quantum field could be
responsible for creating the illusion of the existence of the viewer of the television too. That this
viewer is illusory is the insight of anatta!

Concluding Remarks
Both Dharma and Science enunciate the laws of nature; as applicable to the inner world of human
beings and the external world. There can be no disharmony between them, for as Gary Zukav points
out in his recent book,
[The laws of Science] are the reflection in physical realityin the world of physical objects and
phenomenaof a larger non-physical dynamic at work in non-physical domains. When Science and its
discoveries are understood with the higher order of logic and understanding of the multisensory
human,* they reveal the same richness that Life itself displays everywhere and endlessly... the
paradigms... of Science also reveal the way our species has seen itself in relation to the Universe:
Newtonian physics reflects a species that is confident in its ability to grasp the dynamics of the
physical world through the intellect; relativity reflects a species that understands the limiting
relationship between the absolute and the personalised conception of it; and quantum physics reflects
a species that is becoming aware of the relationship of its consciousness to the physical world.18
It would thus not be an exaggeration to say that for a deeper understanding of modern science, there
is a need to develop certain intuitive insights. These can enable us to have experiences more rich than
those possible with the basic five senses. Clearly, the process of evolution of such a multisensory
personality can be hastened by living life in conformity with the Universal Laws, the Dharmathat is,
by practicing Vipassana.
The complementarity of science and Dharma can be succinctly put by paraphrasing the beautiful
epigram of Albert Einstein: Science without Dharma is blind and Dharma without Science is lamefor
Dharma gives us the vision of what ought to be done, and Science gives us the power to do it19. The
developments in science have unleashed enormous powerbut power can do as much harm as good.
Today, there is a crying need to channel this power to ensure the very survival of humanity, for
otherwise Man will destroy himself by misusing the same power. What we must do is reorient our lives
in the light of the quintessence of Dharma, by practicing morality (sila), taming the senses by the
practice of concentration (samadhi) and progressively purifying the mind by the practice of Vipassana.

1. Dhar, P.L. and R.R. Gaur. Science and HumanismTowards a Unified World View, Commonwealth
publishers, New Delhi, 1992, p. 128.
2. Radhakrishnan,S. An Idealist View of Life, George Allen and Unwin (India), Bombay, 1976, p. 13.
3. Thomson, J.A. Introduction to Science, Henry Holt & Company, New York, 1911.
4. Radhakrishnan, S. The Dhammapada, Oxford University Press, London, 1950, verse 183.

5. Hart, William The Art of Living, Vipassana Research Institute, Igatpuri, 1993, p. 148.
6. Budhananda, Swami Can One be Scientific and yet Spiritual?, Advaita Ashram, Calcutta,1976, p.
7. Nirvedananda, Swami Religion and Modern Doubts, Ramakrishna Mission, Calcutta, 1979, p. 27.
8. Dhar, P.L. and R.R. Gaur, op. cit., p. 77.
9. Warren, H. C. Buddhism in Translations, Motilal Banarasi Das Publishers, New Delhi, 1986, p. 146.
10. Minkowski, H., quoted in Rydnik, V., ABC of Quantum Mechanics, Mir Publishers, Moscow, 1965, p.
11. Capra, F. The Tao of Physics, Fontana, Collins, 1976, p. 186.
12. Ranganathananda, Swami Eternal Values for a Changing Society, Vol. 2, Bhartiya Vidya Bhavan,
13. Capra, F., op. cit. p. 77.
14. Jeans, James quoted in Nirvedanada, Swami, op cit., p. 37
15. Neils Bohr quoted in Tarasov, L.V., Basic Concepts of Quantum Mechanics, Mir Publishers, Moscow,
1980, p. 152.
16. Dossey, L. Space, Time and Medicine, Shambhala Publications, 1982, p. 72-73.
17. Capra, F., quoted in above, p. 80.
18. Zukav, G. The Seat of the Soul, Rider, London, 1990, p. 67.
19. Einstein, A. quoted in Budhananda, S., Can One be Scientific and yet Spiritual, Advaita
Ashram, Calcutta, 1976, p. 31.