The Development of Tranquillity and Insight Knowledge through Meditation
[Samatha Kammatthana and Vipassana Kammatthana]

Phrakru Vivekwatthanathorn
(Luang poh Boonpeng Kappago
Wat Pah Vivekadham-Khon Kaen)

Pra Dhammadhesana given on 26 August 2000

For free distribution only.

Part 1
Samatha Kammatthana

From now on let those who want to practice meditation listen attentively to this preaching and meditate at the same time. Doing both, we shall not waste time. Listening alone will bring us knowledge but calmness will come by listening attentively while letting the mind concentrate. We shall attend to the mind, but, though calmness is there, we cannot at this stage take notice of its presence. We understand that by listening to the preaching we shall gain knowledge, satisfaction and contentment.

Whether we listen to the preaching or not, our faith and our beliefs are always there. Yet we need some return for our faith. Because we have faith and belief in the preaching, we assume that we shall receive something in return. And what is it? The first benefit is calmness and then finally happiness. When we recognise the benefits of this faith and of this practice of meditation, we will try to develop this calmness in our minds by listening to the preaching with confidence.

Everybody has faith. We devote our lives to religion because we have faith in it. We believe in what is good and bad, what is right and true, and our beliefs are whole and complete. So we shall find peacefulness as a result of our beliefs.

Where is calmness or peacefulness? What is it and who can find it? We indeed have faith but what is it and where is it? Calmness comes from faith and it comes to those who have faith. No faith? Then we shall have no confidence in ourselves and so we shall not have the heart to practise meditation. Faith and trust are our incentives for doing things and they encourage us to meditate. We have faith in the teaching of the Buddha and believe that if we follow his teaching we shall have some benefit. The benefit is calmness which is the foundation of goodness. Therefore we have to develop calmness in our minds as a preliminary.

Where is the mind? Who knows where the mind is? We must know our own minds, not the minds of others. Our minds are there for us to know, but the mind does not have a shape like the body. The mind is not an object we can see, but it does have the quality of knowingness. It is this knowingness that responds to everything which burdens the heart. This knowingness responds to what is good, evil, painful, hot, cold, dark, bright, conscious, aware, greedy, angry and ignorant. The mind is subject to all these and to induce calmness in the mind without training and discipline is difficult.

To meditate till the mind has reached the level of calmness is difficult not only because of its nature but also because of its formlessness. Can such a mind be trained and how? Is it certain that by listening to the preaching and meditating simultaneously we shall find this calmness? According to the Buddha’s teaching the way to find peacefulness is first to develop tranquillity, samatha kammatthana, and then to develop insight knowledge, vipassana kammatthana, as the final step.

We shall now practise the first method which is the development of tranquillity in the mind. We shall try to train this shapeless mind by using the method of samatha kammatthana which is also formless. It is only the method which we have to follow. In so doing, the Buddha teaches us to make use of the senses and to take refuge in the Triple Gems. He teaches us to attain mindfulness by taking refuge in Buddhanusati, which is Buddha, in Dhammanusati, which is his teaching, and in Sanghanusati, which is the fellowship of his disciples. We shall thus employ these three gems in our recital technique which is known as parikamma bhavana. We can shorten the recital to Buddho, referring to Buddha. While our mind attaches itself to the name of the Buddha, we shall coordinate the rhythm of our breathing in order to practise knowingness, that is, knowing when to breathe in while reciting ‘Bud’ and when to breathe out while reciting ‘dho’. In doing this we are combining Buddho, Dhammo and Sangho as Buddho. Though we recite only one word it represents all three, because they refer to the same meaning but with different names. They have the same quality. Once we can hold Buddho in the mind, then we shall experience calmness. What is this calmness? The calmness is Dhamma. Once we experience calmness, we shall experience happiness. What is this happiness? This happiness is also Dhamma. Merit is also Dhamma and so happiness is merit arising from Dhamma and also from peacefulness. Therefore calmness, happiness and merit combine as one. If we gain any of them, we gain all. Therefore we do not have to recite Dhammo or Sangho to find peace, happiness and merit. There is no rule for reciting the word and there is no time limit. The Buddha told us to fix the mind on one word only. If we want to choose Buddho, then continue to do so until we find peace in our hearts.

From now on we shall combine breathing with reciting the word Buddho for our meditation practice. We shall not pay any attention to other things and we shall not think of anything else. We shall confine our thoughts to Buddho alone so that we shall find calmness. If we think about various things it will be hard to gather together all these thoughts and piece them together. The mind will sprout in all directions and wander where it will. It will take us such a long time to gather these thoughts together and we shall eventually run out of time. Therefore we have to choose either Buddho or concentrate on the breathing. It is up to us. This technique is called the development of tranquillity in the mind by the practice of reciting. This technique will increase the level of tranquillity and so allow the mind to experience more calmness.

Once the mind has found calmness, the result of this achievement is peace and thus this peace is a taste of Dhamma, the source of happiness. The mind at this stage will feel different from the ordinary mind because the taste of Dhamma is the essence of the heart which has undergone this kind of practice. This essence brings pleasure without any negative feelings. There is neither the sadness nor the suffering which is always in the world. The mind will feel bright and clean. All the anxieties and frustrations that make the mind suffer disappear and the mind is unburdened. Therefore there will be a feeling of lightness in our body and mind and we shall feel peacefulness and happiness and goodness in ourselves. Now we shall find our faith fulfilled and we can saturate our minds in all these properties of peace, happiness and goodness.

Once the mind is saturated with these properties, it will feel elated as a result. Saturated with peace, happiness and goodness, it will stop striving for other things. The mind will search for other things only if it lacks this sense of elation. The mind will obtain this sense of elation when it has been trained by samatha kammatthana. The elated mind is saturated. When the mind is completely saturated, contentment will come and also satisfaction. We shall then be completely convinced that we shall obtain these benefits from this method of practice. Such benefits give purpose to this practice.

At this stage the mind will not only feel these qualities but it will also be motivated to practise more because the mind has seen the benefits within itself, not from outside. This is the happiness which such practice brings automatically. So is our faith satisfied. Now we will try not only to maintain this tranquillity but also to increase it more and more until it is more profound where the mind reaches the stage of concentration. When this is reached the calmness in the mind is so steadfast that nothing can disturb it.

When the mind has reached this level of steady concentration the mind will absorb the essence of Dhamma and this Dhamma gives the essence of happiness to the mind. The mind will now feel differently from the old one because the untrained mind reacts to the influences of whatever feelings beset it. It is constantly deluded and deceived. There is no peace within such a mind; it feels distraught and frustrated and the mind suffers. The mind has experienced the essence of suffering before. Therefore, when the mind has been trained and has found peace and happiness as a result, it will not search for any other happiness other than the happiness deriving from this practice. This will give the mind the incentive to accept the recital technique as the fundamental method of meditation.

At this stage we shall begin to investigate the nature of the mind. For this wisdom has to be attained. When the mind has developed tranquillity, goodness will automatically accompany it, and the mind will act and think positively and optimistically. Such radiant thought is called wisdom (panna), and, since it arises as a result of recital meditation, it is called meditative absorption (bhavana jhana).

When the mind has attained wisdom, it will start investigating things calmly and firmly with the aid of concentration (smathi). Beforehand, the mind did not know how to investigate what was happening within it. Because it lacked concentration, it flowed and wandered aimlessly and followed whatever influence it was under. Such influences came from sense data, which is so variable. We shall not gain any benefit from such a mind because it is ignorant. But when the mind is trained it has developed the power of concentration, leading to the development of insight knowledge (panna jhana). The mind will use this insight knowledge to investigate itself under the influence of concentration. Whereas before the mind wandered and found no peace, now, having experienced happiness, it will investigate this happiness by searching for its cause and finding out if there is anything else mixed in with this happiness. Is it a real happiness that we can trust and rely upon?

Part 2
Vipassana Kammatthana

To investigate Dhamma is to investigate the mind. The mind which has achieved Dhamma through the practice of meditation enjoys a profound peace. It will be very strong and ready to overcome any problem besetting the mind until it is clear of it. For this we have to investigate the origin and cause of the problem. Here insight knowledge will throw light on all the phenomena that have happened and still happen in the mind. Then it will come to the conclusion that all the phenomena that take place in the mind are overshadowed by mental defilements (kilesas). The name given to the sum of these mental defilements by philosophers in times past is avijja.

What is avijja and where does it come from? Does it live inside the heart or outside? Is the mind itself avijja? According to this theory the mind is under the influence of avijja and it creates darkness in the mind. The darkness is a barrier preventing the mind from seeing and understanding things clearly, so the mind becomes deluded and behaves accordingly. In consequence the mind suffers from delusion. This delusion is therefore avijja and it is an ignorance of the mind, the darkness of the mind. What kind of darkness is there in the mind? Is it similar to the darkness outside? Is it the same darkness as that of the night where there is no light and so our eyes cannot see? It must be the same.

The darkness from outside can be overcome. For instance there is dawn after dusk. There is light that people invent such as from electricity. All these lights cannot shed their brightness into the mind and therefore they cannot destroy avijja.

Because the mind is deceived by this darkness, it suffers from dreams, fantasies, hallucinations, visions. All these lead to obsessions such as obsession with wealth and property, with self and with self importance. So the mind is completely overshadowed with the vices which defile the mind and so these kilesas take root in the mind. There are in our hearts darkness, delusion, hatred, attachment, greed, lust, love, pleasure.

When we know that our minds and hearts are stained with all these impurities which make us suffer we are going to try and uproot these causes and unburden our minds. How can we do it? For this purpose the wisdom that we gained from intense concentration, supported by true peace, will act as our weapon. Insight knowledge is very powerful. It can clarify the problem and it has a brightness which radiates from the mind or from the power of the mind. This awareness (vinnana) will allow us to see things clearly and to develop wisdom and this wisdom is called insight knowledge (panna jhana).

Insight knowledge can trace a problem to its cause and show the effects which force the mind to be the slave for so long to mental defilements. Such a mind is like a convict who has been imprisoned in a jail. The difference is that such a mind does not know for what is has been imprisoned because it only acts ignorantly depending on the occupant.

The Buddha said that the mind given to intense concentration will know what is going on within itself. Its knowing is true. It knows that mental defilements are the cause of suffering. Now the mind will develop the insight knowledge, called vipassana jhana, for this purpose. Finally this insight knowledge will see that we are deluded in every stage of our lives, beginning when we are born, when we grow up and then when we become old and die. These phenomena still being present, the cause of suffering also continues to exist and so there will be an endless cycle of birth and rebirth.

Who creates existence? Who is responsible for the faith of all beings? It is the kilesas that holds sway over all beings because it has taken root in our minds. The Buddha teaches us to analyse and recognise the kilesas and try to separate it from the mind. We can only do that with the use of insight knowledge which we shall gain from recital meditation leading to the development of concentration and finally wisdom.

Why do we have a sense of possession? What makes us cling to our own bodies and identity? What makes us think that this is me, him, her, us, it and them? This sense of clinging on or attachment is the cause that leads to existence. What influences the presence of this sense? The answer, of course, is kilesas. Therefore we have to destroy this kilesas.

Only when we use wisdom will the mind then recognise kilesas and avijja, and then mind will then realise that because of these two the mind is blinded with the darkness they create.

Insight knowledge is developed through intense concentration and so we will know our past life, the cause that makes us all to be born, and finally we shall have the power to conquer kilesas and avijja and so the Buddha’s teaching will then be understood.

Wrong actions arising from desire or craving but also from ignorance influences what happened in our past life and what will happen in our next life. All these actions reside in the mind and are the seed of new lives and existences because the mind is the one that thinks and imagines things both good and evil. It is the mind that forces them in the direction of speech and body. Wisdom will recognise that all these actions come from the work of kilesas under the names of kammasava and avijjasava. All these truths will be revealed by insight knowledge and it will explain the process of aimlessly wandering in the cycle of birth, ageing, sickness and death. So this is the time to destroy the kilesas so that the mind will be free and the process of birth and rebirth ended. All these stages the Buddha himself experienced and underwent all by himself. He freed himself from the wheel of life and death by using wisdom to analyse the cause and effect of any mental defilement appearing in his own mind. When he found the cause he overcame the problem and destroyed the kilesas with an undeterred mind.

Once the Buddha had destroyed all the defilements, his mind became pure. He then discovered that in order to rid himself of all the impurities which stained his mind he had to investigate the following truths, namely, suffering (dukka), its origin (samudaya), its cessation (nirodha) and the way leading to its cessation (magga). By discovering all these truths, which the Buddha named the Four Noble Truths, he then reached the stage of enlightenment and announced himself as samma sambhuddha, meaning he who has achieved enlightenment by himself. The Buddha had analysed and investigated the four noble truths by himself alone and eventually discovered the way to liberate the mind. Then he laid out the path for us to follow. He did not say that only he can achieve nibbana but he said that those who follow his methodical path will benefit from the practice as he did.

For us ordinary people, who may not have the same ability as the Buddha, he said that we should investigate according to the power of our own minds, basing ourselves on his teaching. He said that only those who practice meditation will experience the results within themselves (sandhithiko). Therefore we have to investigate according to what we experience and always refer to the origin of what is happening, what causes it. Panna jhana will find the answer for us by recognising, confronting and analysing all the impurities manifesting themselves in the mind and then destroying them. What is left is the bare heart freed from all delusions and defilements. This is the stage of cessation of suffering (nirodha).

The Buddha teaches us and laid out the path for us so that we too, like him, may be freed from kilesas. Such a high level of achievement in pursuit of this practice did not occur only in the time of the Buddha: all the savaka who have been his disciples have also achieved the same goal despite his passing away centuries ago. Those who practise according to the Buddha’s teaching will also experience the same results in themselves at every level of Dhamma without let or hindrance and independent of time. Time is always there but those who believe and are prepared to devote themselves to the practice of meditation are few. Perhaps such persons lack the courage and therefore think that such happened only in the Buddha’s time. But the Buddha’s teaching remains constant at all time. His Dhamma can be proven at any time, uninterruptedly, throughout the ages. Therefore, if we pluck up courage and devote ourselves to the practice of meditation, it will create faith and confidence. Then, surely, we shall gain concentration, the result of which will give rise to calmness, happiness, goodness and, finally, the development of wisdom. Then we too will have achieved the ultimate goal like Buddha.

But if we do not practise, even if the Buddha himself were present, we shall not achieve anything. For example, during Buddha’s lifetime, there was a doctor called Shivakkakomarapajj, who cared for the Buddha all the time. He was very close to the Buddha but he did not make any achievement.

For the conclusion of this pra dhammadesana, let all those who practise samatha kammatthana and vipassana kammasatthana benefit from the method and achieve the Dhamma that constantly and loudly proclaims itself within the purified heart.

Last updated: Wednesday, January 9, 2008 12:52 PM

Copyright © 2008 Jason Chang unless stated otherwise. All rights reserved.

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