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Re: Samsara/Suffering

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  • Ashin Punnobhasa
    Dear friend sherabprajna, When I was reading your expression “A delight indeed!- So beautiful this Sangha!” a kind of feeling arose in me and that feeling
    Message 1 of 18 , Sep 11, 2002
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      Dear friend sherabprajna,

      When I was reading your expression �A delight indeed!- So beautiful this Sangha!� a kind of feeling arose in me and that feeling made my day. Thanks a lot, my friend!

      Now this is the time for us to discuss about the practice, Vipassana. Another term for this practice is �Satipatthana� which means �Foundation of Mindfulness�. In the course of practice, mindfulness (sati) play the most important role. Buddha taught Four Foundation of Mindfulness, namely (1) Foundation of Mindfulness on the Body, (2) Foundation of Mindfulness on the Sensation, (3) Foundation of Mindfulness on the Mind, and (4) Foundation of Mindfulness on the Dhamma. We may discuss all these things in the future if you like. Right now we may deal with only the second one, the Foundation of Mindfulness on the Sensation since we have already begun with it.

      There are two types of meditations. One is emphasis on concentration and the other on realization. What I mean here by realization is seeing, witnessing, or experiencing the real nature of the object. When you witness something, you don�t assume anything, you don�t suppose anything, and you don�t expect anything. You just see what is there. When you look at an object, let�s say, a feeling of pain in your leg, you are not only concentrating on it but also trying to know the nature of the pain as it is. Without controlling it, without prejudging it, and without expecting anything, you observe it. I remember what my first meditation teacher said. He said, �When a mosquito flies near your ear and make humming sound, you suppose to note �hearing, hearing, and hearing�. But instead, you might note, �going to bite, going to bite, and going to bite.� Then you are losing the track.

      When you observe pain, you try to see the intensity of it. Then you will witness the intensity of that sensation is not the same at every moment. Sometimes it is less and sometimes severe. Then you see the changes in the sensation. You do not know whether it will be less or become strong next. Different types of sensation arise and pass away in each moment. You are right by saying not to attach to results. But sometimes you may have aversion towards pain. You don�t want pain anymore. It ultimately means you may be expecting comfort. Attachment and aversion toward sensations may arise. Mindfulness guards the mind not to attach or hate your object. It guards the mind to be objective. Attachment and aversion arise in our mind due to subjective ideas. Something that a dog likes may be very disgusting for a man. Liking and not liking of different individuals does not make the object different. It remains the same. The difference lies in our subjective ideas. In Vipassana practice, you observe the objects as the way they are. Let us say, you observe pain as pain; not as my pain. If you apply the �I� there arise the subjective ideas. You should observe sensations as the way a physician examine a patient. A physician does not make the feeling of patient as his. If he did he might give a wrong treatment. I knew a doctor who never gave a treatment for his only son. He had a strong love for his son and there the subjective ideas involved.

      Now I would like to tell you how a student may be instructed by his Vipassana meditation teacher. He would say as follows:

      �Go to a quiet place, sit comfortably and at the same time energetically so that you can sit a long period of time and you will not fall asleep. Relax your mind and body and give attention on what is going on insight. You may notice that you are breathing. Keep your attention on the tip of the nostril and observe the air-touching sensation on that point. When you breathe in, you should note in-breath. When you breathe out, you should not out-breath. Or you may note �in and out� in short. Please try to know the entire breath, right from the beginning till the end of in-breath. And again please try to know the entire breath right from the beginning till the end of out-breath. You should be aware of changes in the process of the breath. Sometimes the breath is shallow, and sometimes it is deep. Sometimes it is warm, and sometimes it is cold. Sometimes it is short and sometimes it is long. Observe the breath as it is. Please do not control the breath or do not follow the breath. Keep your mind at the nostril area and watch the breath as the way a gate-keeper check a man right in front of him. A gate keeper does not pay attention to those who have not yet come and to those who have already gone. His concern is only to the man standing at the gate. Like that don�t pay attention to what is not yet happened or what is already passed away. Be at present moment. Guard your mind to be at present. And also guard your mind not to attach to any sensation or not to have aversion towards any sensation.�

      My friend, there will be more to say if I were instructing a meditation-student. But this much may, I hope, satisfy your question.

      One more thing, I would like to say here, is sometimes a good motivation can cause a bad action and a bad motivation can cause a good action. Let us say killing is bad and protecting one�s citizens is good. Then to protect one�s citizens you may have to kill the enemy of the country. Running after fame is bad and helping other is good. Sometimes one helps other fellow beings in order to gain fame. I think there may be a few more to discuss on that matter. But since the letter is long, I think I should stop here for now.

      May you realize the Dhamma!

      May all of us realize the Dhamma!

      Your friend in Dhamma,

      Ashin Punnobhasa







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    • espacio42
      Dear Venerable Ashin Punnobhasa, thank you so much for such clear answers! and I will never consider your letters long! sometimes I wish to be able to absorb
      Message 2 of 18 , Sep 13, 2002
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        Dear Venerable Ashin Punnobhasa, thank you so much for such clear
        answers! and I will never consider your letters long! sometimes I
        wish to be able to absorb all the Dhamma teachings at once, but at
        the same time I realize it is powerful wisdom, and one must take it
        in small doses and so I am grateful for this space in which I can ask
        such wise teachers as yourself.

        I loved your answer about the Foundation of Mindfulness on the
        Sensation...and on how to do the meditation, I already did as you
        explained and...Ohooo what difference! I am emergeing to a spot
        where it feels freedom, more free, more clear. I am grateful
        again...but....I am interested in knowing about the rest of the
        Foundations of Mindfulness-- "Satipatthana". May you tell me about
        the Mindfulness of the Body? or which ever you think is best to
        continue with this teaching or explaining Vipassana.

        And yes, may all of us realize the Dhamma.....

        Thank you, Sherabprajna
      • Ashin Punnobhasa
        Dear Sherabprajna, I am very glad just by knowing that my answers were of use for you. In fact, I do not think I have given a very thorough answers. It would
        Message 3 of 18 , Sep 16, 2002
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          Dear Sherabprajna,

          I am very glad just by knowing that my answers were of use for you. In fact, I do not think I have given a very thorough answers. It would be because of you who could grasp the idea so quickly and who were open-hearted too.

          Learning will never end unless one becomes an Arahant. And one will never become perfect unless he become a Buddha.

          Keep going step by step and I feel that I am with you. In fact, we all are together on the same way - on the Middle Path.

          Well, so much of friendly talk. Let's go onto our main concern. I think I should explain more about vedananupassana. This is the foundation of mindfulness on vedana. Let us, first, see what are vedanas. Since we have sense faculities and there are also objects out there as well as in side, we have contact between those sense faculities and their respective objects, e.g. eyes with sight, ears with sound, etc. This is termed as Phassa in Pali Canon. Phassa is followed by vedana. In fact since you have phassa, you will also have vedana. All the time! Vedana is a mental factor. There are five kinds of vedana, namely, somanassa vedana (pleasant feeling), domanassa vedana (unpleasant feeling), upekkha vedana (neutral feeling).

          You can experience only one type of vedana at one time. If you are not mindful, this vedana may be followed by attachment. In the coure of practice, you shold observe vedana objectively. It means you should not take this vedana as yours. Be mindful! Be mindful of focusing your mind on the object and also be mindful of guarding you view not to be subjective. We have a problem with the way we view the world - the world of experience. We have a sense that there is someting what we call "I" that, we think, is the actor of all of our actions. And we think this "I" is experiencing vedana. And we also think this vedana belongs to the "I". Then we attach to the vedana. This is why we feel happy and proud when we experience success and pleasant things. And we feel unhappy and depress when otherwise.

          So, in order to get rid of this attachment, pride, and wrong view, we should only observe the object objectively. If you are experiencing pleasant feeling, you should observe it as pleasant, not your pleasant feeling. Pain as pain, not of yours.

          Well, this time I think I should stop here. I may explain the other method of foundation of mindfulness in my next e-mail to you. If you have any questions about what I have discuss you are welcome to ask. If I do not know the answer I am ready to admit that I do not know. Then we will raise the question together.

          May all of us realize the Dhamma.....

          Your friend in Dhamma,

          Ashin Punnobhasa





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        • sherabprajna
          Dear Venerable Ashin Punnobhasa: Thank you for the answers, so grateful. Yes I have a question about the five kinds of vedana, you mentioned 3, are the two
          Message 4 of 18 , Sep 17, 2002
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            Dear Venerable Ashin Punnobhasa:

            Thank you for the answers, so grateful. Yes I have a question about
            the five kinds of vedana, you mentioned 3, are the two others to be
            introduced later? or...?

            I saw you mentioned 3: 1. somanassa vedana, 2. Domanassa vedana and
            3. Upekkha vedana.....may you tell me the other two?

            And is there a word in English that may transalte "vedana" or
            something close to it's meaning. I understand from what I read in
            your answer (but my ablity for wisdom is very limited, I ask for
            your patience with my questions please)- to mean, and correct me if
            I am wrong of course, - for vedana to mean, wisdom, or like
            discernment, like congnitive awareness, like the difference of one
            thing to or from another or the difference between concepts?
            or interpretation of situations or events or ideas or concpets, like
            being able to see/know/understand the difference between pleasant
            feeling, unpleasant feeling or neutral feeling?

            Could vedana mean interpretation? and if yes, then the aim is not to
            be attached to interpretaions of experiences but just observe without
            adversion or acceptance?


            Thanks again for your kindness in answring.

            Sherabprajna
          • Ashin Punnobhasa
            Dear friend sherabprajna I am sorry for my imcomplete answer. I was writing an article that would explain vedananupassna. I was not satisfied with what I wrote
            Message 5 of 18 , Sep 17, 2002
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              Dear friend sherabprajna

              I am sorry for my imcomplete answer. I was writing an article that would explain vedananupassna. I was not satisfied with what I wrote and I just copy some parts and paste them to the answer. I must have missed out some points. I could not check it for I was about to go somewhere after I sent it. I appologise. Vedana can be translated into English as feeling. When your sense faculties and objects contact with each other, vedana arise. In fact vedana or feeling is one of the fifty two mental factors and arises together with all types of consciousness. When a consciousness arise, it arises with one of the five kind of vedana.

              Now, we will talk about sense faculties and types of consciousness that are based on those faculties. The other expression for sense faculties is sense doors. They are eyes, ear, nose, tounge, body, and mind door. Eyes consciousness arise at eyes door and the rest you can make out.
              When you see an object, there arise eyes consciousness together with vedana and some other mental factors. This vedana (that arise together with eyes consciousness), according to Abhidhamma, is Upekkha, natural feeling. Then (after the process of eyes consciousness) you may have another consciousness that arise at mind door and this consciousness is accompanied with another type of vedana. That can be somanassa (happiness or pleasant feeling), domanassa (unhappiness or unpleasant feeling), and upekkha (natural feeling).
              If your body is contact with an object, you have a consciousness that is accompanied with vedana. This vedana is sukha (pleasure) or dukkha (pain). After that process, you may have another type of consciousness that occurs at mind door and is accompanied with either somanassa or domanassa or upekkha.
              Again I am confusing you, I guess. Never mind! Right now we are going to stick to the types of vedana only. Somanassa (pleasant feeling), domanassa (unpleasant feeling), Upekkha (neutral feeling), Sukha (pleasure), and dukkha (pain) are vedanas.

              At the moment when eyes consciousness arise, it arises together with upekkha vedana. Ear, nose, toungh consciousness arise together with upekkha vedana and body consciousness arise together with sukha and dukkha. But note that eyes, ear, nose, tounge, and body are not mental. What I mean by eyes consciousness, etc, is consciousness that arises at the eye door etc. That consciousness is mental. Vedana that arises together with those consciousness are mental too.
              If you do not quite understand what I discussed above, it's not your fault. It is too much of theory. We may discuss it later. But right now, I think, I have answered what are those five vedanas (feeling). You may also call them sensation, if you like.

              So the point in the practice is that when you feel something you should observe it objectively. Objectively, I repeat! Remember, vedana is vedana - not your vedana, is it? Guard the mind not to attach to any of those vedana.

              Dear friend,I always remind myself, still being a student of the teaching of the Buddha, that I have more to learn. And sometimes I may not answer your question clearly. It may be due to my lack of full knowledge or my skill to deal with questions. So you may freely ask me if you have any doubt or if I do not give a satisfactory answer. Sometimes I forgot I was contacting you through on line, and I felt like I was talking to a friend causually. I appreciate you pointed me out what I missed. Thanks a lot!

              May all of us be free from Samsara.



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            • espacio42
              Dear Venerable Ashin Punnobhasa, how I thank you very much for your kind answers!.....but really my mind is opening so much to wanting to understand more and
              Message 6 of 18 , Sep 22, 2002
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                Dear Venerable Ashin Punnobhasa, how I thank you very much for your
                kind answers!.....but really my mind is opening so much to wanting to
                understand more and more. From your explanations I do understand
                Vedana, or am beginning to, and it feels so good! and you were going
                to explain the "Satipatthana" the "Foundation of Mindfulness"...to be
                able to understand living without attachment, but now in your last
                answer I saw were you mention the fact that Vedana or feeling is one
                of FIFTY TWO MENTAL FACTORS!...wow, now my mind would like to
                understand those!...or are they not necessary for me to
                understand "Satipatthana"?

                Or what do you think if I suggest this: I am willing to start from a
                beginners point of starting to learn Vipassana. Meaning... would you
                like to consider telling/explaining to me from the beginning? or from
                the point where a person completely is not familiar with Viapassana
                at all. I only have this Sangha to learn from and books, but no one
                to ask for explanations..so I am willing to stay here and slowly
                listen to your explanations from the beginning. See me as a
                completely willing and open student and with 0 knowledge. Or I will
                continue as you think is best. I have plenty of patience to wait for
                your answers at your convenience.

                Thank you for your consideration.
              • Ashin Punnobhasa
                Dear friend Sarabajana, I am glad you are willing to learn. I am glad because I am a student too who wants to learn. You know, this discussion with you is part
                Message 7 of 18 , Sep 23, 2002
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                  Dear friend Sarabajana,

                  I am glad you are willing to learn. I am glad because I am a student too who wants to learn. You know, this discussion with you is part of my learning. I need to thank you encouraging me to write something about meditation and Abhidhamma.

                  In my last letter, I mentioned about fifty-two mental factors. Buddha taught Abhidhamma that explains ultimate realities. Scholastic learning Abhidhamma is not essential in practicing meditation. But it would be better to understand what the Buddha taught through learning, as well as practicing. One can give a meditation instruction without Abhidhamma terms. But in some cases it is better to use them in order to avoid repeated explanation. For instance, in our discussion on meditation practice, we may come across some words such as Nivarana, Vedana, Tanha, etc. If you have knowledge on Abhidhamma, you will understand what a teacher is talking about. There are English translations for those words, yet sometimes, translation does not give the entire ideas for a particular word. For example, we talked about vedana and used a translation feeling or sensation. Then there is a need to discuss more about vedana and we did it. This was part of learning abhidhamma. So, if you are interested in learning Abhidhamma, I am glad to write an Abhidhamma Course for you. I will send it to you part by part. And there are very good texts available in English. I would recommend you a book �A Comprehensive Manual of Abhidhamma.� For Satipattha (the discourse on mindfulness), I would recommend you to read �the Four Foundations of Mindfulness by Venerable U Silanada�. This is for theoretical purpose. For the practice, you should also read �In This Very Life by Sayadaw U Pandita�. One thing I forgot to mentioned is that before reading these books, please begin with the book, �What the Buddha Taught by Venerable Wapola Rahula.� So I would recommend you to begin with �What the Buddha Taught�, then �In This Very Life� and then �the Four Foundations of Mindfulness�. �A Comprehensive Manual of Abhidhamma� is a hand book you should often refer to. I will help you out with simple explanations based on that book. See, you may have very good books, and I don�t think I can do any thing better than those remarkable works of highly respected teachers. Any way this is a discussion of two students who are learning together, isn�t it?

                  Now, I will begin with Abhidhamma. In my next letter you will read some explanation on vipassana. I will try to explain vipassana practice based on those two books.

                  I think we better begin with those fifty-two mental factors since we have already aware of them. We may group those fifty-two mental factors as follows;

                  (1) Seven Universal mental factors

                  (2) Six Occasional mental factors

                  (3) Fourteen Unwholesome mental factors

                  (4) Nineteen Wholesome beautiful mental factors

                  (5) Three Abstainces

                  (6) Two Illimitables

                  Before we begin this discussion we should know that what we call mind is according to Abhidhamma the consciousness and its associate mental factors arise together, pass away together, taking the same objects and having the same base. Don�t worry my friend; we will understand them in detail.

                  First we need to see what Abhidhamma taught about. It deals with ultimate realities. There are two types of realities; Samutisacca (Conventional Realities) and Paramatthasacca (Ultimate Realities). When you see a man whose name is Mr. Hood, you may say �This is Mr. Hood.� It is true as it is a conventional reality. You may also say �This is a man.� It is true too. You may also say �This is a human being.� It is true too. These terms are all conventional. When we reach at the Paramattha level, what is a man is five aggregates; matter (rupa), feeling (vedana), cognition (sanna), volition (cetana), and consciousness (vinnana). Among these five aggregates, the last four are mental. Vedana, Sanna, and cetana are mental factors and vinnana is consciousness. So ultimately a man is nothing but a composition of mind and matter. You would not say like �A five aggregate is writing to another five aggregate.� You would only say �A man is writing to another man.� We deal with conventional terms in our daily lives. In Abhidhamma Buddha taught the Dhamma using ultimate realities.

                  A consciousness here is, different from some of the definition given to it in some other philosophies, just knowing an object. Consciousness only knows. Mental factors colored it. When you are seeing an object, there arises an eyes consciousness along with some mental factors. Consciousness is like pure clean water, and mental factors are different kinds of colors that color the water. Consciousness never arises without mental factors and no mental factors arise without depending on a consciousness. The characteristic of consciousness is that �that knows the object�. Each mental factor has own characteristic. When you are angry with something there is a consciousness that knows the object. This consciousness arises with certain mental factors that too take the same object with consciousness. Among those mental factors, there is a mental factor called �dosa� which means anger or hatred or aversion. The name anger is given to the consciousness along with mental factors due to this mental factor �dosa�. Without dosa, this consciousness would not be the same. It would be something else.

                  Now we will begin with Abhidhamma study. Abhidhamma is a teaching that was taught by the Buddha at Tavatisa, a Celestial Level. The topic is too long that I cannot surely complete with a few discussion. That will go on forever, it seems. I will begin with something basic. The topic is very wide indeed! Buddha could speak one hundred and twenty eight times faster than normal human being (Pan-tha-1, 358) and he taught Abhidhamma at this speed non-stop for three month. Non-stop! Here I meant it literally. One can imagine how huge would the original teaching be. In human capacity, it is impossible to complete learning Abhidhamma in its original form that was delivered to Devas (Celestial beings) by the Buddha. Buddha taught Abhidhamma to Sariputta Thera whom we cannot compare with anybody expect the Buddha himself in the field of wisdom. That version of Abhidhamma that was taught to Sariputta was too brief that common human like us may not understand fully. But Sariputta, knowing the Buddha�s intention, taught to his five hundred disciples and that version is not as lengthy as the first version and not as brief as the second one. The Abhidhamma Pitaka that is available at our hands is the last version taught by Sariputta Thera. Even that makes five books in their big size omitting the repetitions. Any way this is available for us and is with its level that we can reach. There are voluminous texts on the subject written in different languages in order to explain the most profound teaching of the Buddha. In this discussion we will begin with the basic explanation based on Abhidhamatthasangaha, �The Manual of Abhidhamma�.

                  This very text is also known as 'Lat Than' Atthakatha, Small Finger Commentary in Myanmar for its very concise treatment on the subject, yet it is the most helpful note on Abhidhamma. The author mastered Abhidhamma thoroughly and wrote that commentary for later generations who may find difficult to study Abhidhamma texts directly.

                  In the very beginning of the text, the author, Anuruddha Thera, listed four types of ultimate realities (Consciousness, Mental Factors, Matter, and Nibbana) which is termed by the Buddha as Paramattha and about which the entire Abhidhamma was taught. .First we need to understand what realities are. In our live, we use the terms like man, woman, child, animal, tree, etc. These are realities in conventional sense. When we consider what a man is, ultimately a man is nothing but the composition of mind and matter. Mind (Consciousness and mental factors) and matter are the terms used in Abhidhamma and they are conditional whereas Nibbana that also is another ultimate term and that is unconditional. Though the author begins with a chapter on Consciousness (Citta), I would like to begin with the chapter on mental factors. Again I would discuss about Paramatthas randomly.

                  Well, we have been going very long for introduction. Now, we begin with unwholesome mental factors. You would think why I begin with this. I discuss the unwholesome mental factors (Akusala Cetasika) since they are something to be eliminated from our mind. There are fourteen unwholesome mental factors. Here is the first one, �Moha�.



                  Muyhatiti moho nama, eso annanalakkhano.

                  Alambasabhavacchada-rasondhakarupatthano.

                  Ayonisomanasikara-padatthanoti sannito.



                  The definition of Moha (Vacanattha)

                  [Muyhatiti moho nama- A mental factor which is deluded in the object is called moha.]

                  Moha is an unwholesome mental factor because of which one cannot know the real nature of the object. The synonym for Moha is Avijja, ignorance. It is not doubt that obstructs one�s making decision. In deep sleep we do not know what we know or what we perceive. This is not moha either.



                  The characteristic of Moha (Lakkhana)

                  Eso annanalakkhano- This Moha has the characteristic that is opposed to that of wisdom.]

                  Moha knows the object wrongly whereas Nana or wisdom knows the object rightly. That is why Moha has the characteristic that is opposed to that of wisdom. It is mental blindness or unknowing (Annana)



                  The function of Moha (Rasa) and The manifestation of Moha (Paccupatthana)

                  [Alambasabhavacchadaraso- Moha covers the real nature of the object. Andhakaraupatthano- Moha appears to be making the eyes of wisdom blind]

                  What is meant by �real� is that an unwholesome volitional act is followed by painful and undesirable results and that a wholesome volitional act is followed by pleasant and desirable results. Four Noble Truths and the existence of previous and future lives, i.e. one is born due to Kamma (wholesome and unwholesome volitional act) that was done in an previous live by one and will be reborn in another existence if one still perform Kamma are also real. And also the fact that everything has one or many causes is real. Moha covers one�s eyes of wisdom so that one does not understand the real nature of them. One knows wrongly that unwholesome volitional act is followed by pleasant and desirable results and that wholesome volitional act is followed by painful and undesirable results. One does not understand the true nature of the Four Noble Truths, the existence of previous and future lives, and cause and effect relationship, etc due to Moha.

                  Sometimes those, who have understood that unwholesome volitional acts are followed by painful and undesirable results, may commit those unwholesome acts when their mind is overwhelmed by moha.

                  So the function of Moha is non-penetration, or concealment of the real nature of the object. It is manifested as the absence of right understanding or as mental darkness.

                  The discussion I made above would rather be a type of academic study and that is not yet completed. I will stop here and may, if all conditions are in favor of continuing this discussion on Moha, write the last point, i.e. the approximate cause of Moha and also some more explanation.

                  Well, my friend, do you think it is too long? Please be patient with me for this. I will writ about Satipatthana on my next e-mail to you. Please let me know if you have some comment or some questions on what I discussed above.

                  May all of us realize Sacca.

                  Ashin Punnobhasa.

                  -----------------

                  Here I send you the Dhamma Talk by my teacher Sitagu Sayadaw. You would like reading it.



                  Buddhist Meditation



                  A Lecture Given To

                  VANDERBILT UNIVERSITY STUDENTS

                  From the

                  SURVEY OF EASTERN RELIGIONS COURSE

                  At the

                  Buddhist Temple

                  Nashville, Tennessee, U.S.A.

                  October 5, 1986.



                  Meditation is observing the real nature of mind and matter. Meditation is an examination of mental and physical phenomena in ourselves. Meditation is a way or method that searches for r4eality and truth in the body and mind, through wisdom based on concentration. By true and constant observation, we can accomplish a certain degree of concentration and knowledge. Through this concentration and knowledge we can penetrate the true nature of mind and matter in our body. By this penetration, we can see the arising and disappearing of mental and physical phenomena in ourselves.

                  The word �meditation� here means mental culture or development. Meditation aims at cleansing the mind of impurities and disturbances such as lustful desires, hatred, ill will, ignorance, worries, restlessness and sceptical doubts. Meditation aims at cultivation such qualities as concentration awareness, intelligence, willpower, confidence, joy and tranquillity. This leads finally to attainment of highest wisdom, which sees the nature of things as they really are. Meditation attempts to realise Ultimate Truth, Nibbfna.

                  There are two forms of meditation. One is the development of mental concentration (samatha samfdhi). It means one-pointedness of mind. The other form is insight meditation, known as �Vipassanf�. It can penetrate into the nature of mind and matter.

                  For the attainment of concentration, there are forty kinds of methods prescribed in the Pf>i scriptures, and these are summarised in a later text called the Path of Purification. The forty meditation subjects are as follows:



                  A. Ten totalities (Kasiza)

                  1. Earth Kasina

                  2. Water Kasina

                  3. Fire Kasina

                  4. Air Kasina

                  5. Blue Kasina

                  6. Yellow Kasina

                  7. Red Kasina

                  8. White Kasina

                  9. Light Kasina

                  10. Limited-space Kasina



                  B. Ten kind of foulness (asubha)

                  1. The bloated body

                  2. The livid body

                  3. The festering body

                  4. The cut-up body

                  5. The gnawed body

                  6. The scattered body

                  7. The hacked and scattered body

                  8. The bleeding body

                  9. The worm infested body, and

                  10. The skeleton



                  C. Ten kind of recollections (anussati)

                  1. Recollection of the Buddha

                  2. Recollection of the Dhamma

                  3. Recollection of the Sa;gha

                  4. Recollection of virtue

                  5. Recollection of generosity

                  6. Recollection of deities

                  7. Recollection of death

                  8. Mindfulness occupied with the body

                  9. Mindfulness of breathing, and

                  10. Recollection of peace



                  D. Four kinds of divine abiding (brahmavihfra)

                  1. Loving-kindness

                  2. Compassion

                  3. Gladness, and

                  4. Equanimity



                  E. Four kinds of immaterial states (ar{pa)

                  1. The base consisting of boundless space.

                  2. The base consisting of boundless consciousness.

                  3. The base consisting of nothingness, and

                  4. The base consisting of neither perception nor non-perception.



                  F. One perception (sa**f)

                  Perception of repulsiveness in nutriment



                  G. One defining (vavatthfna)

                  Defining (analysis) of the four great primary elements.



                  Among these, the meditation practise devoted to mindfulness of breathing is a very popular method and a practical example in the meditator�s world. Concentration on breathing leads to one-pointedness of the mind (Samfdhi) and ultimately to insight (Vipassanf) which enables one to attain enlightenment. The Buddha Himself practised concentration on breathing before He attained enlightenment. This harmless and fruitful concentration may be practised by any person, irrespective of religious beliefs.



                  Preparation for Meditation



                  The most important sermon ever given by the on mental development or mental culture (bhfvanf == meditation) is called the �Discourse on the Setting-up of Mindfulness� (Satipatthfna Sutta). Several ways of insight-meditation are in Buddha this discourse and it is divided into four main sections. The first section deals with our body (kfya); the second with our feelings 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 is used, the essential things is mindfulness; here; meaning awareness, attention or observation.

                  For the setting up of mindfulness (or awareness) on in and out breathing only, a particular posture is prescribed in the text and if possible one should practice this meditation accordingly; that is, �in a cross legged position, keeping the body erect and mind alert.� Place the right hand over left hand. The eyes may be closed or half-closed. Easterners generally sit in this posture by 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 on the half lotus position; that is; by simply placing the right foot on the left thigh or left foot on the right thigh. When this triangle position of the legs is assumed, the whole body is well balanced. But sitting cross-legged is not always practical or 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.

                  Having assumed a posture that is comfortable for you, keep the back reasonably straight without being stiff or strained. The head should not be drooping. The neck should be straight so that the nose is in a perpendicular line with the navel. Your hands should be placed comfortably on your lap and the right hand must be on the left. Direct your line of vision. Then you may either close your eyes or leave them half-open. Alternatively, if it is more convenient, you may focus your vision at the tip of your nose. 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. Place your attention on the flow of air at the tip of the nose, keeping the mind focused and alert. Breathe in and out as usual without and effort or strain. Do not try to control or force the rhythm of the in-breath out-breath; simply let your mind be aware and attentive of your breathing in and out. When you breathe sometimes you take deep breaths, sometimes not. This does not matter at all. Breathe normally and naturally. The important thing is to remain aware of your breaths regardless of whether they are deep or slow, short or long, in or out. In other words, your mind should be sufficiently concentrated on your breathing that you can follow its natural movements and changes uninterruptedly. It is also important not to move very often, for this breaks your concentration. While practising mindfulness on the breath, you should disregard other sensory impressions and thoughts; you should let yourself forget your immediate surroundings and environment. If your eyes are closed, do not open them to look at anything; if you have them half open, let them rest unfocussed without moving them. Patience is quite essential in this practice. Patience means staying in the state of balance, regardless of what is happening in the body. Staying 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 keep the mind in balance.



                  AID FOR DEEPENING MEDITATION



                  Another aid for deepening meditation is silence. Much of the energy that is conserved by not taking 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 silence, 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 yourself, about relationship, about other people. During meditation take time to experience yourself deeply. When we understand our selves, then relationships become easy and meaningful. Concentrated effort during meditation leads to the development of moment-to-moment mindfulness that can remain focused on a single object. Through this cultivated skill the mind will become powerful and penetrating. During the meditation you will become very mindful and notice carefully your entire main object of meditation, which is the inflow and outflow of the breath. You will find that meditation deepens through the continuous application of this kind of awareness.

                  Now we will begin our sitting practice with this very simple object of awareness; the mindfulness of breathing. This exercise of mindfulness of breathing, which is the most basic and easiest of all practices, is capable of producing extremely deep states of meditative calm called the four-fold �absorption�(jhfna). Thejhfna temporarily dispel the hindrances (nibbfna) that normally contaminate the mind and produce joy, calm, peace, happiness, purification, equilibrium and keenness of mind. Having perfected the jhfnas it is then possible to cultivate various supernormal powers (abhi**f). These powers are of five kinds:

                  (1) Mental creative power

                  (2) The knowledge of former lives

                  (3) The knowledge of the minds of others

                  (4) The divine eye

                  (5) The divine ear



                  By practising meditation on breathing in and out, your mind becomes tranquil, purified, cleansed, flawless, perfect, free from defilement, subtle, ready to act, firm and imperturbable. With a mind so developed you can acquire such types of a abhi**f.

                  Here are five different methods in giving attention to breathing in and out:

                  (1) Counting

                  (2) Connection

                  (3) Touching

                  (4) Fixing

                  (5) Observing





                  COUNTING METHOD



                  Herein, counting is just counting of slow and quick breaths. You should practice the slow counting method first and quick counting later. As a beginner, you should first give attention to the tip of your nose where the touch of breath is most evident, by counting with mindfulness. Take mental notes and count a pair of in-breathing and out-breathing as number �one�. Then the next pair of in-breathing and out-breathing as number �two�. Then the next pair of in-breathing and out-breathing as number �three�, and so on. Count until you get to begin again from number �one-thus,

                  In-out one,

                  In-out two,

                  In-out three and so on. Count up to ten.

                  The counting should not be less than five or more than ten. You should not make any break in the series. You should do your counting of breaths without fail or break. At first you should do this slowly, continuously. As you do your counting in this way, the in-breath and out-breath will become evident to you as they enter in and issue out. Then you can leave off slow counting. In this way the in-breath and out-breath, which had already become evident to you, while you counted them in the former way, allows you to count more quickly, continuously, and naturally since you have better concentration.

                  Then knowing that the breaths keep moving along quickly, not apprehending them either inside or outside of the body, but apprehending them just as they reach the nostrils, you can do your counting quickly; in-out-one, in-out-two, and so on up to ten. For as long as the meditation subject is connected with the help of counting, the mind becomes unified with the help of counting, just as a boat in a swift current is steadied with the help of a rudder. When you can fix your mind on the place touched by the breath, at the tip of your nose, your development of mindfulness will be successful.

                  How long are you to go on counting? Until, without counting, mindfulness remains settled on the in-breath and out-breath as its object.



                  CONNECTION METHOD



                  When you become perfect in the method of counting numbers and are able to catch up without fail every in-breathing and every out-breathing with mindfulness and awareness, you will have to go over to the next stage called �connection or follow-up method�. This means that you must follow-up with the beginning, catch up the middle and end of in-breath and out-breath without fail.

                  Let there be mindfulness and awareness from the very beginning of in-breath and out-breath until the middle of in-breath and out-breath become evident, and let there be mindfulness and awareness also when the in-breath and out-breath come to an end. At this time your mind becomes rather concentrated. You must be aware of the beginning, the middle and the end at the very place where the breaths touch, that is, the tip of the nose. You must not make a move from the nostrils where in-breath and out-breath come into touch. You must note with awareness the very moment of beginning, middle and the end of breaths.



                  TOUCHING METHOD



                  The place where in-breath and out-breath touches or makes contact is called, �touching place� in Pfli, �puqqhokfsa�. This is the tip of nose. Keep your mind fixed on this place with mindfulness. If the mind tries to run away, tie it up with mindfulness so that it cannot move anywhere else. There is method where mind does not move from the place of the touch (Contact). It is called the �method of keeping mind immovable� or �touching method�. Therefore:

                  A. Beginning of touching breaths

                  B. Moving of touching breaths

                  C. Stopping of touching breaths

                  There are only three points. This is how the beginning, the middle and the end, three points are to be caught up.





                  GATE KEEPER



                  Here let me give an example of a Gatekeeper. There was a city where, for the sake of security, a sentry was posted at the gate. The duty of the gatekeeper was to check carefully everyone coming in and going out of the city and to find out whether he was a good or bad man. The check, carried out only at the city gate where many people kept coming in and going out of the city, enabled the gate keeper to know whether the people coming in or going out were good or bad. He did not need to follow them from behind into the city or out of city. The gatekeeper must wait and check at the gate only.

                  In the same way, you must investigate or examine your breath in and out of the nostril gate only with mindfulness and effort until your mind concentrates. You must be aware at this moment. Mindfulness must be kept in waiting at the touching place, which is the gate of the town where breaths contact the nose. You must not move your concentration anywhere else.



                  FIXING METHOD

                  On the method of keeping the mind fixed you have to remember one important point. What is that? That is not to move your mind from touching place, to fix your mind firmly at the touching place. Your mind must stand steadily at the gate and check breaths coming in and going out and investigate what is the nature of touching or contact, then you will find out real things distinctly. This method is called �keeping mind fixed�, (fixing method). The mind and mindfulness must be fixed at the place of in-breathing and out-breathing on the nose.

                  To Summarise:

                  (1) The first method is counting with numbers the in-breathing and out-breathing.

                  (2) The second method is Connection, (following) of the in-breathing and out-breathing.

                  (3) The third method is to catch up with Contact.

                  (4) The fourth method is to fix the mind at touching place.



                  Thus, the four methods are now completed. Now you can obtain any method of concentration, mystic power, and supernatural knowledge, by these methods of development of mindfulness on breath in-out.







                  INSIGHT



                  The fifth method is by Observing. It means Insight Meditation. Mental concentration leads to insight by observing and fixing attention on the activities of materiality and mentality as they really are. If your mind becomes concentrated perfectly with the method of keeping the mind fixed, if you are able to keep your mind firmly on the phenomenon of contact without allowing to move elsewhere, insight knowledge is to be developed, to find out analytically what it is, this is contact. Therefore, it will be seen that it is not only concentration on breathing that is required, but, also the knowledge of investigation on reality of contact.

                  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 at the tip of the nose, the place where the breath touches. The in-breath and out-breath are the body. In this case, a body means a group, or a heap, or a collection of physical phenomena.

                  When you contemplate, observe, investigate in the body with mindfulness and knowledge, you can experience four material qualities. The y are the element 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 material 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 destructive and constructive powers. Our bodies are constituted of these four great primary elements, as are the earth, sun, moon, planets and stars. It is these very elements experienced in our body, their natural ways, which we follow that are responsible for the creation and destruction of the whole solar system, and the whole body. The power of these elements is enormous. For a short period of the elements are in some kind of balance. So we forget, not realising the tremendous destructive power inherent in them, following their own nature, when they begin to get out of valance, 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�which 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 endlessness 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, smells, 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 mindfulness to the mental-body, also. 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 it as it really is carefully, observe it with mindfulness, and investigate it with knowledge. When you do so constantly, the three characteristics of material-body and mental-body will become evident in your knowledge. You will see or know the three signs of mind and matter. They are always changing, not everlasting. 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 the Nibbana-is realised.

                  This is insight-meditation which leads to the ten kinds if insight wisdom, seven kinds of purification, eight kinds of higher supramundane wisdom, four kinds of wisdom in discrimination, final liberation, real happiness, ultimate peace, cessation of suffering, Absolute Truth the Nibbana.

                  So 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 the Nibbana.

                  In conclusion, the great benefit of mindfulness on breathing in and out should be understood as the basic condition for the perfecting of clear vision, final liberation and purification of the mind. For this had been said by the Buddha, �Bhikkhus (Monks), 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 deeply, may all you brothers and sisters who are willing to enjoy cessation of suffering, try and practise the Foundation of Mindfulness which gives you real happiness, peace and cessation of all forms of suffering.

                  Thank you very much my dear brothers and sisters.



                  Ashin Nyanissara

                  (Thegon Sayadaw)















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                • sherabprajna
                  Dear Venerable Ashin Punnobhasa: Again!! a delight to receive your most wonderful answer! I love how you tell the information of the Buddha different ways of
                  Message 8 of 18 , Sep 24, 2002
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                    Dear Venerable Ashin Punnobhasa: Again!! a delight to receive your
                    most wonderful answer! I love how you tell the information of the
                    Buddha different ways of teaching, it made me some how a little sad
                    that I can not understand all he taught to the most advanced beings,
                    but glad at the same time to be here and through you now have at my
                    reach the teachings of Beautiful Buddha in the Abhidhamma. Never
                    think your answers are long! I appreciate so much the discourse as
                    well by Ashin Nyanissara, so enlightning! wow! very nice the
                    explanations of how to practice meditation...a precious gift for me
                    you given me! Thanks so much.

                    About questions, I did not understand well the fifty-two mental
                    factors, do they have names individually? and should I know them now
                    or much later on the discussion.

                    And also I do not understand the forty meditation subjects mentioned
                    in Ashin Nyanissara discourse... should I understand these or later
                    too?

                    And also from the discourse I do not understand what it is: four-
                    fold "absorption" (jhana). Again, should I try to understand this
                    or I let you just tell me what you think I need to know as we go
                    along....but everything else I did understand quite well..I am
                    learning so very much! Please continue with these teaching when you
                    have time.

                    And are the answers to these questions I am mentioning found on the
                    books you suggested? I am trying to find them to buy. Thanks for
                    telling me about them too. I am so happy you answered me!

                    Thank you, Sherabprajna
                  • Ashin Punnobhasa
                    Dear friend, I am sorry I could not reply you for such a long time. I am sending you some materials that you would find useful to use studying Abhidhamma but
                    Message 9 of 18 , Oct 3, 2002
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                      Dear friend,
                      I am sorry I could not reply you for such a long time.
                      I am sending you some materials that you would find useful to use studying Abhidhamma but since I can not send them with attachment through our group mail, I will send you directly to your account.
                      This time, we will continue with studying some of mental factors. I have explained about moha (delusion) and yet not completed. I will continue with it now.
                      The proximate cause of moha is Ayonisomanasikara which means unwise attention. We usually pay attention to the objects with the idea of "I" in our mind. This is followed by the ideas of "my" and "mine". This is the subjective aspect. Base on these ideas we attach to the object, we think the object as mine. We attach to the idea "I, my, and mine" and consequently we attach to objects. When our attachment is not fulfilled we get disappointed. Anger or hatred or dislike arise in us.

                      Let us take the example. We think our body is beautiful and we thinks some body is beautiful. Which part of the body is beautiful? Is it the hair? We may think the hair is beautiful on our head, but as soon as we take one hair out of our head, we no longer want it. We may even feel disgusting if we see the same hair in our lunch. Think about parts of our body one by one, we don't find any beautiful parts at all. So thinking of unbeautiful objects as beautiful is unwise attention. This unwise attention is due to the attachment on the "I". In other words it is due to attachment (tanha), conceit (mana) and ditthi (wrong view).

                      What is unwise attention is that thinking impermanence as permanence, dukkha as sukha (pleasure) ugly or dirty objects as beautiful or pure, and thinking as there is soul.

                      There are some advice of the Buddha to develop the wise attention (yonisomanasikara). We may discuss it on next e-mail.

                      I will send you a chat with excel file to your e-mail.

                      With metta,

                      Ashin Punnobhasa



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                    • Ashin Punnobhasa
                      Dear friend sherabprajna, I am here again. I would like to discuss more about yonisomanasikara (wise attention) and ayonisomanasikara (unwise attention). I
                      Message 10 of 18 , Oct 3, 2002
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                        Dear friend sherabprajna,

                        I am here again. I would like to discuss more about yonisomanasikara (wise attention) and ayonisomanasikara (unwise attention). I have discussed in my last mail the basic mentality that makes unwise attention arise. That basic mentality may be named as vipallasa which means hallucination, delusion, erroneous observation or taking that which is true as false and that which is false as true.
                        In the process of mind (vithi), there arises manasikara followed by kusala (wholesome) and akusala (unwholesome) mental process. It means when you have wise attention, this will be followed by wholesome process of mind whereas when you have unwise attention, this will be followed by unwholesome process of mind.
                        Let us see with some examples. When you experience success in your life, you would think, "I am such a wonderful person who gain this success". Then there is mana (conceit). Again you would think, "I love this success". Then there is tanha (attachment). You would also think, "I will be successful the rest of my life". Then there is ditthi (wrong view on impermanence as permanence). These are unwholesome mental state of mind and that is the reason to suffer. This happen because of unwise attention to the object.
                        Suppose you are accused of something that you have not done, you would think, "this is the result due to my previous unwholesome kamma. There is no reason to get angry for the accusation or angry with someone who accused me. I will not create the cause of this kind of result again. I will do wholesome kamma only". Then this is wise attention to the object.
                        Or if you are in the meditation course or you are trained properly through vipassana, you would just observe the accusation as a sound that arises and passes away. You will not be bothered by the meaning of that sound. What is the accusation anyway? This is the process of sounds, isn't it? Process of words! Divide those process into many parts. Each words will not harm your feeling if you don't pay attention to the meaning in it.
                        Sometimes very ugly thoughts my arise in you. Suppose, you feel like doing something evil. But you remind your self that this is not good to do and you should not do that. Then you try to avoid doing that and even trying to remove the ugly thoughts in you. This is also yonisomanasikara.
                        Sometimes we are angry with something and we think this is right to get angry. This thoughts becomes unwise attention. You may call it unwise reflection. But the anger polluted your mind before you can harm the object of your anger. It burns insight before it can burns outside. Anyway, if you can control to solve the problem without anger, you are developing yonisomanasikara.
                        Dear friend,
                        I was thinking over the topic and feel like writing more on that. This is enough for this time I guess..

                        Be happy!
                        With metta,
                        Ashin Punnobhasa


                        sherabprajna wrote:Dear Venerable Ashin Punnobhasa: Again!! a delight to receive your
                        most wonderful answer! I love how you tell the information of the
                        Buddha different ways of teaching, it made me some how a little sad
                        that I can not understand all he taught to the most advanced beings,
                        but glad at the same time to be here and through you now have at my
                        reach the teachings of Beautiful Buddha in the Abhidhamma. Never
                        think your answers are long! I appreciate so much the discourse as
                        well by Ashin Nyanissara, so enlightning! wow! very nice the
                        explanations of how to practice meditation...a precious gift for me
                        you given me! Thanks so much.

                        About questions, I did not understand well the fifty-two mental
                        factors, do they have names individually? and should I know them now
                        or much later on the discussion.

                        And also I do not understand the forty meditation subjects mentioned
                        in Ashin Nyanissara discourse... should I understand these or later
                        too?

                        And also from the discourse I do not understand what it is: four-
                        fold "absorption" (jhana). Again, should I try to understand this
                        or I let you just tell me what you think I need to know as we go
                        along....but everything else I did understand quite well..I am
                        learning so very much! Please continue with these teaching when you
                        have time.

                        And are the answers to these questions I am mentioning found on the
                        books you suggested? I am trying to find them to buy. Thanks for
                        telling me about them too. I am so happy you answered me!

                        Thank you, Sherabprajna



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                      • sherabprajna
                        Dear Venerable Ashin Punnobhasa: Hello! please do not worry if you take some time to answer my questions. I have total patience! I thank you for the files
                        Message 11 of 18 , Oct 7, 2002
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                          Dear Venerable Ashin Punnobhasa: Hello! please do not worry if you
                          take some time to answer my questions. I have total patience! I
                          thank you for the files you sent me and have been reading, soon I
                          will have more questions about them....but before, I liked the
                          explanation/illustration of the body/hair as thinking them beautiful!
                          very wise words, I really needed those explanations. May I for now
                          ask a question on your last mail on the mental factors:

                          You wrote: "Suppose you are accused of something that you have not
                          done, you would think: "this is the result due to my previous
                          unwholesome kamma. There is no reason to get angry for the accusation
                          or angry with someone who asscused me. I will not create the cause
                          of this kind of result again. I will do wholesome kamma only."

                          Does this means that EVERYTHING that happens to us individually is
                          our own fault? for example the rape of a child, physical or verbal
                          abuse of what looks like "very innocent women", or being robbed? or
                          even a flat tire? all events and situations we experience, we are
                          the creators of them, with our past actions/kamma? all events we
                          face are the results of causes and conditions set in motion by
                          ourselves at one of our many past lives or in this one?

                          If I may distract you from the teachings of the mental factors, do
                          ignore this questions and continue with other mental factor
                          explanations, and if you think it is wise to leave this for the time
                          it is appropiate to explain/answer them.

                          Thank you, May all be free of suffering. Sherabprajna.
                        • Ashin Punnobhasa
                          Dear friend sherabprajna, I am thankful to you. It is true that I have some other duties. But what I am doing right now is also very important duty. Not a
                          Message 12 of 18 , Oct 9, 2002
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                            Dear friend sherabprajna,

                            I am thankful to you. It is true that I have some other duties. But what I am doing right now is also very important duty. Not a burden at all! Through this I am learning a lot of things also. I can learn from your questions. I can learn from our respected monks.

                            I think I don't need to send you other chapters of Abhidhamma in Daily Life since it is available at http//www.nibbana.com . Thanks to those who are taking care of this web-site. But please try to find the books I have recommended.
                            Does this means that EVERYTHING that happens to us individually is
                            our own fault?

                            I would like to correct the question a little. Does this means that everything that happens to us individually is due to our own fault? Then the answer is yes. I explain it in the following discussion. What happens to you right now may not be your fault at the time of the question but it is due to your unwholesome kamma in the past.

                            All events and situations we experience, we are
                            the creators of them, with our past actions/kamma?

                            Here also a little modification is needed. Please don't think that I am trying to be smart. This is very important matter. I would ask: Are all events and situations we experience due to our previous kamma? We don't create these experiences but we created kamma that will give these experiences as results.

                            Are all events we face the results of causes?

                            Yes. But everything experienced is in a condition in which kamma can give the result.

                            Are conditions set in motion by ourselves at one of our many past lives or in this one?

                            Sometimes conditions are not set by ourselves. For example, In a bus terminal, the bus at a parking place is not parked by you. The driver's skill is not done by you. The color of the ticket is not made by you. I mean you are the one who is in the middle of a condition and whose many kamma are waiting for the chance. At the same time you are performing new kamma. You are in that condition due to your kamma; at least you chose to be at the bus terminal. Unless you went into that condition you would not meet the driver, see the bus and the color of ticket.

                            Now I would like to explain theory of kamma.


                            The word kamma (in Sanskrit karma) literally means action or deed. Strictly speaking, kamma means volitional wholesome and unwholesome actions and refers to volition which is one of the mental factors. To make it clearer, there should be a little more explanations here. As I explained to you earlier, every type of consciousness arises with some mental factors (necessarily universal mental factors which are termed in Abhidhamma as sabbacittasadharana). (Please have a look at the chat. You will see the name of mental factors in the first seven columns. You will find phassa, vedana, sanna, cetana, ekaggata, jivitindre, and manasikara.) There, cetana is translated into English as volition. I will repeat what I have mentioned above that volition arises with all types of consciousness. I guess this much is clear to you.

                            When we talk about kamma, we talk about volition, but we talk about only the volition that associates with wholesome and unwholesome consciousness. Maybe here you may ask the question like what make consciousness wholesome or unwholesome. If consciousness is neither of these two, what would be it? I would like to leave these questions unanswered in this letter. I will deal with it later. Right now we will pretend we have known this. Well, to repeat what is kamma again, volition (cetana) that associates with wholesome or unwholesome is called kamma.

                            I quote: The Buddha declared: �It is volition, monks, that I called kamma, for having willed, one performs an action through body, speech or mind.� The Buddha and the Arahants do not accumulate kamma, since they have eradicated ignorance and craving, the roots of kamma. Nevertheless, even the Buddhas and Arahants are bound to experience the ripening of their past kamma as long as their psychophysical personality persists, that is, until they pass away.

                            Now, my friend, you have noticed that we are the ones who produce our own kamma. Since we are neither the Buddha nor Arahants, we perform actions (I mean strictly kamma when I say action) through body, speech or mind all the time so long as we are not in a deep sleep. Every moment when we are awake, we are at least mentally performing kamma. We have many kamma (numerically) in this very life. We also have many kamma in the previous lives. We are born due to these kamma only. This is the reason why we are different from each other. Even twin brothers may have different experiences as their kamma results.

                            I quote: The law of kamma is self-subsistent in its operation, ensuring that willed deeds produce their effects in accordance with their ethical quality just as surely as seeds bear fruit in accordance with their species. The direct products of kamma are the resultant states of consciousness and mental factors that arises when kamma finds the right conditions to fructify. Kamma also produces a distinct type of matter in the organic bodies of living beings, called materiality originating from kamma.

                            You may not like to know that when you have eyes-consciousness seeing something is due to kamma. The eyes-consciousness is a type of consciousness that arise as a result of wholesome or unwholesome kamma. Please have a look at a chat. And find out cakkhuvinnana. There are two types of cakkhuvinnana (eyes-consciousness). One is the resultant consciousness of unwholesome kamma (akusala) and the other is resultant consciousness of wholesome kamma (kusala). Likewise, all the experiences through ears, nose, tongue, etc, are due to the previous kamma.

                            These resultant states of consciousness and mental factors arise when kamma finds the right conditions to fructify. Note that the result arises only when there is the right condition for kamma to fructify. We may relate it to the Mangalasutta (the discourse on Mangala which may means loosely blessing). There are thirty-eight kinds of mangala that the Buddha taught. I see that these are creation of conditions. If you practice these mangala, you are creating conditions in which wholesome kamma most likely will give their results. Suppose if you can avoid evil minded persons, you may not face danger from these types of persons. If you are surrounded by those evil minded person, you will likely face danger.

                            I agree with you, my friend, if you say, this is very difficult to avoid from those types of people since we are living in a society where good and evil are mixed. Suppose, please think of a level of existence where only noble persons live, (for instance, the pure abode that is termed in Abhidhamma as Suddhavasa Bhumi), you may never face the problems that you are facing in this human abode. Human abode is a place where we can find the results of wholesome and unwholesome kamma.

                            Here I think I need to tell you a little about Pure Abode. In that abode, only Arahants and Anagamis live. Arahant is a person who has already eradicated all defilements completely. Anagami is a person who still has the attachment on the existence. Both Arahant and Anagami do not have anger, hatred, and attachment on sensual pleasure. Of course, an Arahant has removed all defilements. Imagine, how peaceful a place is if there is no anger, hatred and attachment on sensual pleasure.

                            Remember, Arahants and Anagami also had previously done many kamma and there may be results from these kamma if the condition is favored. But there are no conditions in which their previous unwholesome kamma can give the result. There is no more birth for an Arahant and an Anagami will also become Arahant in that pure abode only and after that there will be no more rebirths. Then there will be no more conditions in which kamma can give the results.

                            What I meant by saying these things is that there must be a condition in order to have the result of previous kamma.

                            Your examples are very practical. There are many innocent boys and girls who faced the most horrible things. There are many good people who become the victims of evil acts. There are many people who are successful by improper trading like drug trading. Here we need to differentiate between kamma and vipaka. Desirable experiences are due to previous wholesome kamma and undesirable experiences are due to previous unwholesome kamma. The action at a given time by which one gain these experiences is another kamma and that will give the results in the future.

                            So a person who rapes an innocent girl is accumulating horrible unwholesome kamma and the victim is experiencing the result of previous kamma. I know many people would feel uncomfortable to read this. A person who prevents that kind of horrible act is performing wholesome kamma. A person who wants to maintain justice is performing wholesome kamma. A person who kills the criminal is performing unwholesome kamma though his motivation for that killing may be wholesome. But I personally feel that justice should be done by you if you are the maintainer of the justice. Abhidhamma does not teach personal things. Something you have done with lobha (attachment), dosa (hatred or anger), and moha (delusion) is unwholesome and something you have done with alobha (non-attachment), adosa (non-hatred), and amoha (non-delusion or wisdom) is wholesome.

                            My friend, I think I have answered your question. I have to admit that even I don�t satisfy with my answer. I wish I could do better. My knowledge and skill to deal with problems are limited. This problem is very much completed. In order to make my answer clearer, I would like to mention some paragraphs from the Comprehensive Manual of Abhidhamma. Please read page number 200 through 210 if you have that book. If you don�t have the book, next time I will explain what is mentioned there.

                            May all of us be free from samsara.

                            Your friend in Dhamma

                            Ashin Punnobhasa




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                          • sherabprajna
                            Most Dear Venerable Ashin Punnobhasa: Hi, thank you for your answers, I have been reading them closely. I still have not located the Comprehensive Manual of
                            Message 13 of 18 , Oct 26, 2002
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                              Most Dear Venerable Ashin Punnobhasa: Hi, thank you for your answers,
                              I have been reading them closely. I still have not located
                              the "Comprehensive Manual of Abhidhamma, I am looking for it. Mean
                              time I have some questions. I ask for your patience please.

                              Is there anything that will override kamma's ripening effects? or is
                              there a practice one can do in the moment that overrides past kamma?
                              is how one reacts to the results or effects of kamma's ripening the
                              only overriding thing we have for it? or is there nothing one can do
                              to prevent past kamma from ripening?

                              and...is kamma another word for "destiny"..meaning, that no matter
                              what one does now, what will be will be? so that the only reason we
                              try to be conscious/aware of what we are doing in the present moment
                              is because it will determine the type of our future rebirths? but
                              what we have up until now we can not change?

                              and..is it really true what some teachers/wise gurus/authors and
                              writers say about enlightenment..that there is really nothing to do
                              about it, that there is nothing to seek or look for, and the thing to
                              do is just to BE here now, that our enlightenment is a done deal?

                              if not...and it is how I understad, that enlightenment takes much
                              effort over many life times, then what is this effort like? is
                              vipassana meditation the path or way or mode to practice for the
                              realization of our enlightenment?

                              and what is enlightenment to you? liberation from the cycle of
                              rebirhts? enlighenment means "one who knows everything"... one
                              who "is awakened"? ...one who "does not suffer"?

                              and last what did you mean by saying: "Abhidhamma does not teach
                              personal things"? is not Abhidhamma the teachings of the Buddha
                              about life/samsara itself and how to liberate us from it? Abhidhamma
                              is the path to our enlightenment is it not? I mean it's practice?

                              So there is lot's of doing for us to realize our enlightenment?

                              Thank you for you patience and kindess. Sherab Prajna
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