Vipassanā

From the Early Suttas
A presentation prepared for The World Fellowship of Buddhists By Dhammadāsa Bhikkhu 7th August 2011

Why are you here?
I’m assuming you are here because you want to benefit from the Buddha’s experience and not have to reinvent the wheel or make the same mistakes. I distinguish between Buddhism and what the Buddha taught. Buddhism is a religion with many branches/sects, all claiming to have the original or essential teaching. As I see it, Buddhism = Buddha-Dhamma + various cultural influences. They are not the same and we should distinguish them.

Identifying the Essential
The Pāli Dhammapada is says: To see the essence in the unessential and the essence as unessential, means one can never get to the essence, wandering, as one is, on the path of wrong thought (verse 11). But to see the essence in the essential and the unessential as the unessential, means one does get to the essence, being on the path of right thought (verse 12).

What Did the Buddha Teach?
Only what is essential or necessary: • A handful of leaves (S V 438) • Only suffering and the end of suffering (M I 140) He said his teaching is: • Subtle (M I 487) So we should not add to, take away from, or modify what he said. • Not secret (S V 153) He has taught it openly and clearly (svākāto).

Our Attitude to the Buddha
Those firmly set on the path (Sotāpanna) are said to consider the Buddha as the unexcelled teacher (anuttaro purisadamma sārathi), have unshakable faith in him and only take him as the teacher (M III 64-5, M I 266). If we consider him the supreme teacher, then we don’t need any other information, the Buddha’s own words are enough! Definitely he does not need help (other’s additions) to teach us! In my study, I try to focus on the Buddha’s words, as Buddhadāsa Bhikkhu encouraged me to.

many elders who are learned. the community with elders and distinguished teachers. this is the Master's teaching. one elder who is learned. in such and such a place. in such and such a place. I heard and received this from…”: 1. in such and such a place. who know the Dhamma. . bearers of the tradition. “Friends. 2. the code of rules. 3. the discipline.The Four Great References (D II 124-136) If a monk were to say. this is the discipline. this is the Dhamma. the Lord's own lips. 4.

you should neither approve nor disapprove his words. his words and expressions should be carefully noted and compared with the discourses (suttas) and reviewed in the light of the discipline (vinaya). monks. without approving or disapproving. If they. But where on such comparison and review they are found to conform to the discourses or the discipline. the conclusion must be: "Assuredly this is the word of the Buddha.The Four Great References (D II 124-136) Then. it has been rightly understood by this monk. Then. on such comparison and review. and the matter is to be rejected. the conclusion must be: "Assuredly this is not the word of the Buddha.” . are found not to conform to the discourses or the discipline. it has been wrongly understood by this monk".

that we should test what has been well taught (A I 187).Say “Sādhu” to Every Dhamma Talk? Some people may think it is disrespectful not to believe what a (senior) spiritual friend says. such as the great commentator Buddhaghosa. . but the Buddha said. Buddha said we should “make a thorough investigation” (M I 379) and in the Kālāma Sutta. “you should neither approve nor disapprove his words” and we must first check the discourses and discipline.

He said. without investigation. how could we truthfully say “the Buddha is the unexcelled teacher”? The Buddha warned that in the future. this is one cause for the True Dhamma to disappear (A I 72-73 and S II 266-7).Thorough Investigation If we do not follow the advice of the Buddha shown above and we only pay attention to what monks say. . Here the Buddha warned against the “Chinese Whisper Syndrome”. people will not pay attention to what he said and will only listen to others.

If we do not follow the advice of the Buddha shown above. how could we truthfully say “we are disciples of the Buddha”? Sometimes I still act like a parrot and not like a true disciple! . or practice. but they do not understand the meaning. Parrots can learn to repeat words said to them.Thorough Investigation If we follow the advice of the Buddha shown above. we will not fall into the category of “parrot Buddhists”.

open.Thorough Investigation The Dhamma is integrated: "Monks. the Dhamma well proclaimed by me. and free of patchwork” (M I 141). evident. . is clear.

Different teachings could be seen as vertical threads and different themes as horizontal threads. .Thorough Investigation So the Dhamma could be better compared to a weaved blanket.

will produce a fuller understanding of the Dhamma. samādhi. It is generally understood that: . in most teachings. by saying the Buddha’s teaching can be summarised as: ethics. in fact. meditation and wisdom (sīla.these themes can be found in many.they are to be practised in that order. with varying degrees of detail .g. .Thorough Investigation The tradition has recognised this. e. Exploring the links between teachings. paññā). wisdom is developed AFTER concentration.

or] Ten-fold Path (A V 1-6) Right View Right Aspiration Right Speech Right Action Right Livelihood Right Effort Right Mindfulness Right Concentration Right Insight Right Liberation The Three Trainings Morality (avoiding wrong or unwholesome actions of thought. word and deed) Meditation (developing wholesome mental action) Wisdom (living a life without suffering) .The [Eight.

or as relevant to Vipassanā. then. but have you heard of: • the 12 Insight Knowledges taught by the Buddha? You probably have. you may have heard of: • the 16 Insight Knowledges. but the latter may not seem as important.What are the Vipassanā Ñāṇas? If Insight Knowledges are those experiential knowledges that lead to liberation. which are taught by Buddhaghosa. .

The 12 Insight Knowledges from the Dhammacakkappavatana Sutta .

The 12 Insight Knowledges Compared with other Teachings .

Dukkha therefore covers both bodily and mental pain. Interestingly “dukkha” is used for bodily sensations. but it seems the body is dismissed in modern practice. . which are identified as three types: pleasant (sukha). here.Suffering and Its Ending The First Noble Truth defines the term dukkha. Another term used in the First Noble Truth is domanassa and this refers to mental pain. dukkha relates to the body. We can see from Ānāpānasati Sutta that bodily pleasant feelings should be developed and awareness of the body is developed right to the end. which is usually translated as “suffering”. painful (dukkha) and neutral. So.

Ānāpānasati .Samatha and Vipassanā .

Ānāpānasati . The last four steps of Ānāpānasati are identified by the Buddha as “contemplation of Dhamma”. It is generally understood that contemplating impermanence (steps 13-15) is Vipassanā. but I suggest only the last one is.Samatha and Vipassanā The Four Foundations of Mindfulness are all considered to be the practice of Vipassanā. . the last of the Four Foundations of Mindfulness. The other three would seem to be the practice of Samatha.

.USA • Venerable Bhante U Vimalaramsi .Australia • Shaila Catherine .USA • Ayya Khema .USA • Insight Meditation Society – USA * They only mention 5 jhāna factors.Myanmar • Ajahn Brahmavamso .USA deceased.USA • Thanissaro Bhikkhu .Teachers of the Jhānas Visuddhimagga Style Jhānas – very deep • Pa Auk Monastery .Sri Lankan. deceased • Bhante Gunaratana . student: Leigh Brasington • Christina Feldman . same as the Visuddhimagga.USA More Sutta-like Style* Jhānas – not so deep • Venerable Amathagavesi .

Regarding Vipassanā we should pay attention to all of the factors of the fourth jhāna. is known. with five factors. we can see there are at least 11 factors.The 4th Jhāna may include Vipassanā! Only the simplified version of the first four jhāna. because people do not pay attention to the Buddha’s words in the suttas. as taught by Buddhaghosa. If we have a close look at the Buddha’s description of the first four jhānas. .

The 11 Jhāna Factors from the Suttas .

n±ssa kiñci sabb±vato k±yassa parisuddhena cetas± pariyod±tena apphuµa½ hoti…” .Catutthajjh±na½ “Puna capara½. so imameva k±ya½ parisuddhena cetas± pariyod±tena pharitv± nisinno hoti. mah±r±ja. bhikkhu sukhassa ca pah±n± dukkhassa ca pah±n±. pubbeva somanassadomanass±na½ atthaªgam± adukkhamasukha½ upekkh±-satip±risuddhi½ catuttha½ jh±na½ upasampajja viharati.

The 11 Factors and the 4 (Rūpa) Jhānas .

Ekaggatā – onepointedness (no) . Sati – mindfulness (?) 3. Upekkhā – equanimity (yes) 2.The Suttas show Samatha and Vipassanā go together So. you can see that the suttas say there are four factors of the fourth jhāna: 1. Parisuddhi – complete purity Buddhaghosa says there are only two: 1. Sampajañña – clear comprehension 4. Upekkhā – equanimity 2.

That the last factor of the fourth jhāna is parisuddhi – complete purity.We can see that concentration is in the third jhāna. If sati – mindfulness (?) and sampajañña – clear comprehension are part of the practice of Vipassanā. as we will see later. not done AFTER it. then we have to say that Vipassanā practice is IN the fourth jhāna. The Suttas show Samatha and Vipassanā go together . but we still see that Vipassanā FOLLOWS Samatha. is very interesting.

so imameva k±ya½ parisuddhena cetas± pariyod±tena pharitv± nisinno hoti. mah±r±ja. n±ssa kiñci sabb±vato k±yassa parisuddhena cetas± pariyod±tena apphuµa½ hoti…” . pubbeva somanassadomanass±na½ atthaªgam± adukkhamasukha½ upekkh±-satip±risuddhi½ catuttha½ jh±na½ upasampajja viharati.Catutthajjh±na½ “Puna capara½. bhikkhu sukhassa ca pah±n± dukkhassa ca pah±n±.

The Suttas show Samatha and Vipassanā go together The first four jhāna also show that the body is an integral part of practice. . The next table shows how the addiction to the five senses is one extreme and the arūpajhāna are probably another extreme. Each of the four use different versions of the Pāli word for “body” and they use the word “viharati” which can be translated “(s/he) lives”.

Cessation of Sensation and Conception Only experienced by those on the Path .The Ten Types of Happiness (M I 396-400) 1. “Consciousness is bound up with the body. 7. The Third Formless Jhāna – Nothingness 9. The first jhāna 3. the last factor of the Noble Eightfold Path] 2. [One Extreme] Concerned with the body and mind inter-related and co-dependent. The Five Sense Pleasures ONLY concerned with the body – disassociated from the mind. The fourth jhāna 6. The third jhāna 5. The Second Formless Jhāna – Infinite Consciousness [Another Extreme?] 8. The second jhāna 4. The First Formless Jhāna – Infinite Space ONLY concerned with the mind – disassociated from the body.” M 77 – M ii 17 [The Middle Way and all necessary for enlightenment. The Fourth Formless Jhāna – Neither-conception-nor-non-conception 10.

Hardly anyone knows about this. There is one sutta in which the Buddha teaches the only way to the purification of beings. because they don’t focus on the words of the Buddha.The Suttas show Samatha and Vipassanā go together One problem is. I have given a few examples of how the suttas show Samatha and Vipassanā go together. as the Bodhisatta’s teachers did. thinking calming alone is enlightenment. . So it must talk about Vipassanā! It is not the Satipaṭṭhāna Sutta.

did (and will purify) it through repeated reflection on their bodily.” . verbal and mental acts in just this way. do it through repeated reflection on their bodily. who purify their bodily. verbal and mental acts. verbal and mental acts. all those priests and contemplatives in the course of the past (and future). who purified their bodily. (M I 414-420) At the end the Buddha says: “Rāhula.Majjhima Nikāya Sutta Number 61 This sutta was spoken to Rāhula. All those priests and contemplatives at present. verbal and mental acts in just this way.

verbal. with painful consequences. . should be given up (present). you know that it would… lead to selfaffliction. or should be confessed (past). you should reflect on it: This act I want to do…. affliction to others or both… then any act of that sort is absolutely not to be done (future). verbal and mental acts are to be done with repeated reflection. or mental act. or have done a bodily. Whenever you want to do. to the affliction of others or to both? Is it an unwise act.What kind of reflection? Bodily. are doing. would… it lead to self-affliction. painful results? If. on reflection.

Otherwise we could get caught in circular negative thought and feelings of guilt and depression. This is why Samatha is important first! .Reflect with a calm clear mind… We should first develop a calm clear mind and then do the reflection.

If we do this reflection properly. Things may not seem to be changing for the better. this will not happen… This is also why Samatha is important first! .This calls for Personal Responsibility Many times we may feel frustrated at the suffering/injustice/corruption in the world. In the state of frustration. we will do foolish things. We need to calm down. like civil riots.

it was a wise bodily.” We are told this practice leads to the purification of beings and we saw that the last factor of the fourth jhāna is “complete purity” (parisuddhi). training day and night in wise practices. then you should stay mentally refreshed and joyful (somanassa).Joyful… “But if on reflection you know that it did not lead to affliction... Very interesting! . or mental act with happy consequences. verbal. happy results.

. Purify one’s mind.The Famous Summary of Dhamma Dhammapada Verse 183 Refrain from all evil. this is the teaching of all Awakened Ones. develop the wholesome.

The Famous Summary of Dhamma .

one will definitely develop concentration that is deeper than what we have in everyday life.Insight On the one hand it is commonly taught that one doesn’t need deep concentration (all jhāna). is mainly done in meditation retreats. The advice from the Buddha to Rāhula. Doing so.Vipassanā . but on the other hand. did not mention many hours of sitting meditation at all! Maybe because the Buddha was only teaching the Vipassanā method! This type of Vipassanā seems to be more useful for everyday life. In Vipassanā retreats. . people are encouraged to do sitting meditation many hours a day. practice for Vipassanā – Insight.

in that order. Rāhula covers three time periods: future. present and past. then reflect on the completed action.Three Time Periods The reflection on actions of body. Why is the order presented the other way to Ven. Rāhula? I think it is because the Buddha is putting the ultimate practice first – avoiding harmful actions. Often the Buddha refers to these periods in the opposite order to this: past. future. then stop them as we are doing them. if we can’t do that. . present. speech and mind. taught to Ven. If we can’t do that.

Knowledge of the rise and fall of beings (present tense verbs. Knowledge of freedom from the taints (from that moment on.Three Time Periods The Tisso Vijjā or Tevijjā – the Three SuperKnowledges the Buddha developed on the night of his enlightenment are also about the three times: 1. so as they occur) according to their actions 3. . Knowledge of recollection of past births (not lives) 2. no more birth) = purity.

Rāhula. • The third Super-knowledge is about purity. Rāhula. which is the outcome of the teaching to Ven. . Rāhula: • The three time periods are covered in both teachings.Weaved Links Links between the Tevijjā and the practice taught to Ven. the topic of the teaching to Ven. • The second Super-knowledge specifically speaks of action.

” but we have many examples of the Buddha reinterpreting terms used in an physical/external sense to have an spiritual meaning: world. .Weaved Links The use of the term “births” in the first Superknowledge. brahmin. kamma… One discourse clearly shows that the Buddha did not use the term “birth” in the physical sense (M II 103). This term is usually interpreted as “physical birth.

may you be well and may your infant be well!’ “ . go into Sāvatthī and say to that woman: ‘Sister. since I was born with the noble birth. I do not recall that I have ever intentionally deprived a living being of life.Weaved Links “…you should… Angulimāla. I do not recall that I have ever intentionally deprived a living being of life. wouldn’t I be telling a deliberate lie. may you be well and may your infant be well!’ “ “Venerable sir. Angulimāla. By this truth. go into Sāvatthī and say to that woman: ‘Sister. since I was born. for I have intentionally deprived many living beings of life?” “Then. By this truth.

This term is usually interpreted as “beings external to oneself. . One discourse clearly shows that the Buddha did not use the term “being” in the external sense.Weaved Links The use of the term “beings” in the second Super-knowledge.” but we have many examples of the Buddha reinterpreting terms used in a physical/external sense to have a different meaning.

divine being) • A gandhabba (? heavenly musician) • A yakkha (monster) • A human being.Weaved Links In the Dona Sutta (A II 37) the Buddha is asked if he is: • A deva (god.” . To all of these he said “No. because I have eradicated the defilements that would enable me to be classed as such a being.

and they deal with the three time periods within his own lifetime of 80 years.The Tevijjā for This Very Life! If we apply this understanding of “birth” and “being”. then the Tevijjā all apply to the Buddha himself. The advice to Rāhula is seen to have these two characteristics too. his internal world. Any other links? .

.Sati . This is about past action. “to remember and call to mind what was said and done long ago” (A IV 3-4.Sampajañña Looking back at the factors of the fourth jhāna: There is one meaning of “sati” that few people know about. It seems to be an older meaning that is being forgotten. A III 9-10).

when: going forward or back. drinking. falling asleep and waking up. passing excrement or urine. chewing and savouring. eating. sitting. he is clearly aware of what he is doing. standing. carrying his inner and outer robe and his bowl.Sampajañña The explanation of sampajañña that makes it clear that it is about present action is in the Mahāsatipaṭṭhāna Sutta (D II 292): “… a monk. looking forward or back. bending and stretching.” . walking. speaking or staying silent.Sati .

Advice to Rāhula. Tevijjā & 4th Jhāna Reflect on past action Reflect on present action Recollection of past birth Recollection of rising and falling of beings Sati – Memory Sampajañña – clear awareness or comprehension Parisuddhi – complete purity Reflect on future Recollection of (intended) action the cessation of the taints .

. This method seems to have been taught by the Buddha in the Pāsādika Sutta: “.” (D III 127). I often compare different teachings. for the profit and happiness of the many.. which can be easily shown by the use of tables (I used 7 here). . All you to whom I have taught these truths that I have realised by super-knowledge should come together and recite them... in order that this holy life may continue and be established for a long time. setting meaning beside meaning and expression beside expression.Method Used Here In my research. without dissension.

It seems strange that this quote is not mentioned at all in our records of the Saṅgha Councils! . To me this is the Buddha’s wise and compassionate response to the fact that the teaching will get corrupted over time. so that “this holy life may continue and be established for a long time”. being an impermanent conditioned thing.Method Used Here As you can see from the quote. the Buddha gave instructions for his disciples to meet to compare various teachings with each other. This method enables us to identify corruptions in the teaching because the teaching is a “gradual training”.

we will not reject something just because it disagrees with our existing philosophy. which enables us to identify corruptions. that would be disrespectful to the Triple Gem. That is ok with me. we will test it for truth in our life. not just believe. but the differences between the traditional teaching and the Suttas (and Vinaya) should be explained well. I believe the quote from the Pāsādika Sutta is HOW the Buddha wants us to “make a thorough investigation”. I think intelligent people will not be interested in the Buddha’s teaching. . We should not be like parrots and just repeat what we hear without investigation.Is this untraditional explanation correct? People may not accept the findings of my study and may like to continue with the traditional ideas. Then we will know. but if it seems reasonable. because the Buddha said we should “make a thorough investigation” (M I 379). That is. I also think we should ask the question. If we follow the Kālāma Sutta. he gave us a METHOD to study his teaching. so that it is useful for. how can we understand the Buddha’s teaching. or effective in everyday life? If we do not.

com. A copy of this presentation may be obtained by emailing me at: dhammadaso@live.Thank you for your kind attention. Kamma paṭisaraṇo.au . May your practice protect you.

Sign up to vote on this title
UsefulNot useful