The Nine Special Qualities of the Sangha

The Sangha (the Community of Noble Ones ) has the nine special qualities as follows: (1) practicing the good (right) way, (2) practicing the straight way, (3) practicing the true way to Nibbana, (4) practicing the proper way, (5) being worthy of gifts, (6) being worthy of hospitality, (7) being worthy of offerings, (8) being worthy of reverential salutation, and (9) being an unsurpassed (incomparable) field of merit for the world.

(1) Practicing the Good (Right) Way

The Sangha (The community of the disciples) of the Blessed One has practiced the good (right) way because it has practiced in accordance with the instructions of the well-proclaimed Doctrine and Discipline, and because it has practiced the immaculate way.

(2) Practicing the Straight Way

The Sangha has practiced the straight way because it has practiced the middle path avoiding the two extremes (the constant attachment to sensual pleasures and the constant addiction to self-mortification) and because it has practiced the way of the abandonment of faults of bodily, verbal, and mental crookedness, and tortuousness.

(3) Practicing the True Way to Nibbana

The Sangha has practiced the true way because Nibbana is what is called truth, and because it has practiced the way to Nibbana.

(4) Practicing the Proper Way

The Sangha has practiced the proper way because it has practiced the way of those who are worthy of proper acts.

The Four Pairs of the Noble Persons
The Four Pairs of the Noble Persons are as follows:

  • The first pair of the one who stands on the First Path and the one who stands in the First Fruition,
  •  the second pair of the one who stands on the Second Path and the one who stands in the Second Fruition,
  • the third pair of the one who stands on the Third Path and the one who stands in the Third Fruition, and
  • the fourth pair of the one who stands on the Fourth Path and the one who stands in the Fourth Fruition.

(5) Being Worthy of Gifts

The Sangha is worthy of gifts (four requisites) which are brought even from far away because it makes this any gift bear great benefit. Four requisites are food, clothing, medicine, and lodgings.

(6) Being Worthy of Hospitality

The Sangha is worthy of hospitality (things given to visitors like dear and beloved relatives and friends who come from all quarters) because there is no object of hospitality so suitable to receive hospitality as the Sangha since it is encountered after an interval between Buddhas and endows with the constantly endearing and lovable qualities.

(7) Being Worthy of Offerings

A gift that is given out of faith in the next world (life) is called offering. Because of purifying that offering by making it great fruit
ful, the Sangha is worthy of offerings.

(8) Being Worthy of Reverential Salutation

The Sangha is honored with both hands above the head by the whole world, thus it is worthy of reverential salutation.

(9) Being the Unsurpassed Field of Merit for the World

The Sangha is the place for growing the whole world’s merit. Depending on it, the world’s various kinds of merit leading to welfare and happiness grow, thus the Sangha is an unsurpassed field of merit for the world.

The Benefits of Recollecting the Special Qualities of the Sangha

As long as someone recollects the special qualities of the Sangha, his mind is invaded neither by greed, nor by anger, nor by delusion. He has a right state of mind being inspired by the Sangha. And when he has suppressed the hindrances, the Jhana-factors arise in a single mind-moment. But because of the profundity of the special qualities of the Sangha, or because of his being engrossed in recollecting special qualities of various kinds, the Jhana (he attains) is only access (the condition
of concentration just before entering any of the absortion) without reaching absorption (the condition of concentration existing during absorption). Furthermore, when a person recollects the special qualitaies of the Sangha, he/she is respectful and deferential towards the Sangha. He/she attains faithfulness and has much happiness and gladness. He/she also overcomes fear and dread. He/she is able to bear pain and comes to feel as if he/she were living in the Sangha’s presence. The body of who
dwells in the recollection of the Sangha’s special qualities becomes as worthy of veneration as Uposatha house (a chapter house) where the Sangha assembles. When he/she encounters an opportunity for wrong-doing, he/she has a strong awareness of conscience and shame as if he/she were in the presence of the Sangha. If he/she comprehends no higher, he/she will be at least born in a happy state.

(This article is based on Visuddhimagga, Vol. 1, THE PATH OF PURIFICATION, and THE PATH OF PURITY.)

The Six Special Qualities of the Dhamma

The Dhamma is (1) well-proclaimed by the Blessed One, (2) self-realized, (3) followed by fruit without delay (of immediate result), (4) worthy of the invitation “Come and see”, (5) brought to oneself, and (6) realized by the wise each for himself.
(1) The Dhamma which is Well-Proclaimed by the Blessed One

The Dhamma, which is well-proclaimed by the Blessed One, consists of the Scriptural Dhamma (Pariyatti Dhamma) and the Ninefold Supramundane Dhamma (Nava Lokuttara Dhammas). The Scriptural Dhamma is well-proclaimed because it is good in the beginning, the middle, and the end and because it declares the life of purity that is absolutely perfect and pure with meaning and with detail. For instance, a discourse or Sutta with a single sequence of meaning is good in the beginning with the introduction, good in the end with the conclusion, and good in the middle with the rest.
The Scriptural Dhamma is doctrine and discipline, or the three Baskets: the Basket of Discipline, the Basket of Discourses, and the Basket of higher doctrine or the Buddhist philosophy and psychology.
The Ninefold Supramundane Dhamma is the Fourfold Noble Path, the Fourfold Fruition, and Nibbana. Of them, the Fourfold Noble Path, which is the Middle Way leading to Nibbana without approaching the two extremes, is well-proclaimed. And the Fourfold Fruition, in which defilements are tranquillized, is well-proclaimed too. And Nibbana, whose individual essence is eternal, deathless, the refuge, the shelter, is well-proclaimed too.
The two extremes: addiction to sensual pleasures and self- mortification.

The Fourfold Noble Path is (1) the Path of Stream-entry, (2) the Path of Once-returning, (3) the Path of Non-returning, and (4) the Path of Arahantship.
“Path of Stream-entry” means the first Supramundane wholesome Dhamma of one who enters the stream that leads to Nibbana.
“Path of Once-returning” means the second Supramundane wholesome Dhamma of one who will be reborn on the earth only once before he attains Arahantship. “Path of Non-returning” means the third Supramundane wholesome Dhamma of one who does not return to this world or the sensuous world.
“Path of Arahantship” means the fourth Supramundane wholesome Dhamma of one who attains Arahantship.

The Fourfold Noble Fruition is (1) Fruition of Stream-entry, (2) Fruition of Once-returning, (3) Fruition of Non-returning, and (4) Fruition of Arahantship.
“Fruition of Stream-entry” means the first Supramundane resultant Dhamma of the first Supramundane wholesome state, “Fruition of Once-returning”, the second
Supramundane resultant Dhamma of the second Supramundane Wholesome state, “Fruition of Non-returning”, the third Supramundane resultant Dhamma of the third Supramundane wholesome state, and “Fruition of Arahantship”, the fourth Supramundane resultant Dhamma of the fourth Supramundane wholesome state.

(2) The Dhamma which is Self-Realized

The Dhamma, which is self-realized, is the Noble Path. It can be seen by the noble person, who has done away with greed, hate, and delusion in his own
continuity. Moreover, the Dhamma, which is self-realized by anyone, is also the Ninefold Supramundane Dhamma through his reviewing knowledge without relying on faith in another.

(3) The Dhamma which is followed by its Fruition without delay

The Dhamma, which gives immediate result, is the Supramundane Path because it is immediately followed by its own fruit or the Supramundane Fruition. Instead of giving its fruit after using up time such as five days, seven days, it gives its fruit immediately after its own arising. The arising of the Supramundane Path endures for only one mind-moment. Thereafter, its own fruit or Supramundane Fruition consciousness arises according to the procedure of Javana or the thought process. (Abhidhammattha Sangaha)

( 4) The Dhamma which is Worthy of the Invitation “ Come and See”

The Dhamma, which is worthy of the invitation “Come and See”, is the Supramundane Path, the Fruition, and Nibbana because it is actually found as such in its individual essence, and because it is as pure as the full moon’s disk in a cloudless sky.

(5) The Dhamma which is Brought to Oneself

The Dhamma, which is brought to oneself, is also the Supramundane states because the Path and the Fruition are worthy of leading to Nibbana, and because Nibbana is worthy of being treated as one’s shelter by realizing it.

(6) The Dhamma which is Realized by the Wise Each for Himself

The Dhamma, which is realized by the wise each for himself, is the Ninefold Supramundane state because it can be experienced only by the noble ones. The Path has been developed, the Fruition attained, and Nibbana (Cessation) realized by them.

The Benefits of the Recollection of the Special Qualities of the Dhamma

When the meditator recollects the special qualities of the Dhamma, his mind is invaded neither by greed, nor by hate, nor by delusion. He has a right state of mind being inspired by the Dhamma. And when he has suppressed the hindrances, the Jhana factors arise in a single mind-moment. But because of the profundity of the special qualities of the Dhamma, or because of his being engrossed in recollecting special qualities of various kinds, the Jhana (he attains) is only access (upacara) without reaching absorption(appana).

(Upacara = the condition of concen tration just before entering any of the absorptions)
(Appana = the condition of concentration existing during absorption)
Furthermore, when a meditator recollects the Dhamma, he thinks, “In the past I never saw a master who taught the Dhamma which is brought to oneself thus; in the present I also do not see anyone such a master other than the Buddha. Seeing the special qualities of the Dhamma, he is respectful and deferential towards the Buddha. Having great reverence for the Dhamma, he attains fullness of faith and has much happiness and gladness. He overcomes fear and dread. He is also able to bear pain and comes to feel as if he were living in the presence of the Dhamma.

In addition, the body of him who is recollecting the special qualities of the Dhamma becomes as worthy of veneration as a shrine room. His mind has a tendency towards the realization of incomparable Dhamma. When he encounters an opportunity for wrongdoing, he has a strong awareness of conscience and shame on recollecting the well-regulatedness of the Dhamma. If he comprehends no higher, he will be at least born in a happy state.

(This article is based on Visuddhimagga, Vol. 1, THE PATH OF PURIFICATION, and THE PATH OF PURITY.)

Questions And Answers About Vipassana

1. Where does the practice of Vipassana come from?

Vipassana meditation chiefly comes from the tradition of Theravada Buddhism. There are two major divisions of Buddhism in the world today—Mahayana and Theravada. Mahayana tradition developed as Buddhism spread to the Northern Asian countries of Tibet, China, Japan, etc. Theravada tradition stay in Southern Asian and spread to Sri Lanka, Burma (Myanmar), Thailand, Cambodia and Laos.

2What does Vipassana mean?

The word Vipassana is composed of two parts—‘Vi’ which means in various ways and ‘passana’ which means seeing. So Vipassana means seeing in various ways.

3. What can Vipassana meditation do for me?

The ultimate purpose of Vipassana is to eradicate mental impurities from your mind altogether. Before that stage, there are benefits of tranquillity, peace of mind and the ability to accept things as they come. Vipassana helps you to see things as they truly are, not as they appear to be. Things appear to be permanent, desirable and substantial, but actually they are not. When you practice Vipassana meditation, you will see for yourself the arising and disappearing of mental and physical phenomena. And you will have a clearer comprehension of what is going on in your mind and body. You will be able to accept things as they come to you with less agitation and deal with situations in a more positive way.

4. Who needs Vipassana meditation?

Vipassana meditation is for the cure of diseases of the mind in the form of mental defilements like greed, hatred, delusion, etc. We all have these mental diseases almost all the time. In order to at least control them we need Vipassana meditation. So Vipassana is for all people.

5. When Vipassana is needed?

Since mental impurities are almost always with us, we need Vipassana meditation almost all of the time. There is no fixed time for the practice of Vipassana. Morning, during the day, before bed…anytime is the time for Vipassana. And Vipassana may be practiced at any age.

6. Do I have to be a Buddhist to practice Vipassana?

There is nothing which can be called particularly Buddhist in Vipassana meditation. There is no element of religion. It is a scientific investigation and examination of yourself. You just observe closely every thing that comes to you and is happening to you in your body and mind at the present moment.

7. Is Vipassana meditation difficult to practice?

Yes and no. Meditation involves control of mind and mind is most unruly. You come to know this personally when you practice meditation. So it is not easy to practice Vipassana meditation because it is not easy to control the mind…to keep the mind on one and the same object. In another way, Vipassana meditation is easy to practice. There are no elaborate rituals to follow or much to learn before being able to practice. You just sit, watch yourself and focus your mind on the object. Just that.

8. Are there prerequisites for Vipassana meditation?

You need a genuine desire to practice and a readiness to follow the instructions closely because if you do not practice properly, you will not get the full benefits of meditation. You also need to have confidence in the practice and the teacher and an open mind to try it and see what it can do for you. Patience is also very important. When you meditate, you have to be patient with many things. There will be distractions, sensations in your body, and you will be dealing with your mind. You must persevere when these distractions come and you cannot concentrate on the object. Also in Theravada Buddhism, purity of morals is emphasized because without pure moral conduct, there cannot be good concentration or peace of mind. Thoughts of something wrong you have done will come to you again and again, especially when you are in meditation, and it will be more difficult for you to get good concentration.

9. What gadgets do I need for Vipassana meditation?

Actually, you do not need anything at all. All you need is a place where you can sit down, close your eyes and focus on the object. But I am not against using cushions, benches or even chairs and other things because in order to practice meditation, you need some degree of comfort. But while you do not need to inflict pain on yourself unnecessarily, you should take care not to be too much attached to comfort, or sloth and torpor will come to you and you will go to sleep.

10. In what posture can Vipassana be practiced?

Vipassana meditation can and should be practiced in all postures—sitting, standing, walking, and lying down. Whatever you do, you should be mindful.

11. Is cross-legged posture essential in sitting meditation?

Although it is customary and traditional to sit on the floor to practice meditation, it is not essential in Vipassana. If you cannot sit cross-legged, you may sit any way you like as long as it is comfortable for you. What matters in Vipassana is just the awareness, not the posture.

12. Must my eyes be closed when meditating?

It is better to keep your eyes closed, but you may leave them open if you like, whichever is least distracting for you. But if you happen to look at anything, then you have to be aware of the “looking” and note it. The important thing is to have good concentration.

13. What should I do with my hands when meditating?

There are no strict rules as to how to put your hands in Vipassana. You may put them any way you like. The most usual position is on the lap one over the other. Or you may put them on your knees.

14. How long must I practice at a time?

That depends on how much time you can spend for meditation. There is no fixed rule. It is good if you can sit for one hour. But if you cannot sit for one hour at the beginning, then you may sit half an hour or fifteen minutes, and little by little extend the time, until you can sit longer. And if you can sit for more than an hour without much discomfort, you may sit two or three hours if you like.

15. Should I practice every day?

We eat every day, care for our bodies every day. Since we almost always have mental defilements with us we need to cleanse our minds every day. I recommend the morning hours because then your body and mind are rested and you are away from the worries of the previous day. It would also do you good to meditate in the evening before you go to bed. But you may practice any time. And if you make it a habit to practice every day, it will be good and beneficial to you.

16. Do I need a teacher to practice Vipassana?

This is important. Whenever you learn a new skill, you need a teacher. With the advice of a teacher, you learn quicker and you cannot go wrong. You need a teacher who is competent to give instructions, correct your mistakes, and give guidance when you have trouble in the course of meditation. There are some meditators who think they are making progress while in reality, they are not making progress at all. And sometimes they are making progress but think they are not doing well. Only the teacher can tell, and so at such a time he or she is indispensable. If you cannot find a teacher, you may rely on books, although no book can entirely take the place of a teacher. You may be able to do fairly well by reading the instructions and following them carefully. But even then, you may have need for discussion with a teacher occasionally.

17. Can Vipassana be applied to daily life?

You can have awareness of whatever you do whether you are working, walking, doing, etc. It will not be as intense as in meditation or during a retreat, but a more general awareness. And when you apply mindfulness to problems in your life, you will be able to deal with them more effectively.

18. What is a meditation retreat?

A meditation retreat provides an opportunity to deepen meditation practice in a supportive environment with the guidance of a experienced teacher. Everything you do at a retreat becomes the object of meditation.

19. What happens at a retreat?

A retreat day consists of alternate periods of sitting and walking meditation, a nightly lecture and personal interviews with the teacher. Continuity of practice is developed by bringing mindfulness to all other activities throughout the day as well. Noble silence is observed during the retreat. Retreats can last for one day, a weekend, a week or longer.

20. Why should I go to a meditation retreat?

The intensive practice of a retreat is very beneficial for developing good concentration and quieting the mind. Since concentration is essential for penetrative wisdom to arise, a meditation retreat gives you the best possible opportunity to be able to experience for yourself the true nature of reality.

* * * * * * *

The Four Foundations of Mindfulness

(A Summary)
A Talk Given at the Buddha Sasana Yeiktha, Severn Bridge, Ontario, Canada

The opening Passage from the MahÈsatipaÔÔhÈna Sutta

“This is the only way, monks, for the purification of beings, for the overcoming of sorrow and lamentation, for the disappearance of pain and grief, for reaching the Noble Path, for the realization of NibbÈna, namely, the Four Foundations of Mindfulness.

“Herein (in this teaching) monks, a monk dwells contemplating the body in the body, ardent, clearly comprehending and mindful, overcoming covetousness and grief in the world;

“he dwells contemplating the feeling in the feelings, ardent, clearly comprehending and mindful, overcoming covetousness and grief in the world;

“he dwells contemplating the consciousness in the consciousness, ardent, clearly comprehending and mindful, overcoming covetousness and grief in the world;

“he dwells contemplating the dhamma in the dhammas, ardent, clearly comprehending and mindful, overcoming covetousness and grief in the world.”


Today I will explain the passage that we read every morning. This is from the Discourse called The Four Foundations of Mindfulness. This passage is just a summary of the Four Foundations of Mindfulness. But it is important that those who practice Foundations of Mindfulness or VipassanÈ Meditation understand this passage correctly and clearly.

As I have said, the method of the practice of Mindfulness or the Four Foundations of Mindfulness was discovered by the Buddha. He practiced it himself and got the best results from this practice and then for forty-five years he taught the Four Foundations of Mindfulness many times. After his death these methods were collected and recorded in what is known as the PÈÄi Canon. The instructions given at VipassanÈ retreats are all based on the MahÈsatipaÔÔhÈna Sutta which contains this passage.

The first sentence is, “This is the only way, monks, for the purification of beings . . . namely, the Four Foundations of Mindfulness.” So, at the very beginning the Buddha said, “This is the only way”. The Four Foundations of Mindfulness or the Practice of Mindfulness, is the only way for the purification of beings . . . Here the Buddha said, “This is the only way”.

Now, the PÈÄi word for this translation is “EkÈyano”. “EkÈyano” is composed of two parts, “eka” and “ayana”. Ayana means way, path or road, and eka means one. So, ekÈyano literally means one way. This one way is interpreted to mean one way which has no forks, no branches. There is just one way and if you tread this way you will surely reach your destination. There are no misleading branches of this way. The other meaning is that this is the way to be taken by one, to be taken by the individual only. That means when you are treading on this path or on this way you are alone, you have no companion because you make progress or you do not make progress depending on your own capabilities.

Also, this word is interpreted to mean “the Way of The One”. “The One” here means the Buddha. The Buddha was the best of the beings and so he was called “The One” and this is the way discovered and taught by the Buddha, so this is called the Way of The One. Also, it is interpreted to mean the only way, this is the only way, there is no other way for the purification of beings and so on. Now, with regard to the translation “the only way” there are two questions. One is that here, Four Foundations of Mindfulness mean mindfulness only. But, there are other factors of the Noble Eightfold Path. So, are they also not the way to purification of beings . . .? The answer is that they are also the way to purification of beings . . ., but they do not exist without mindfulness. So when mindfulness is mentioned, they are virtually mentioned, i.e., although mindfulness alone is mentioned here, we should understand that all the other seven factors that are concomitant with the Noble Path are also implied.

The other question raised by people, especially of the West, is “Why did Buddha say, “This is the only way”? Aren’t there other ways to the purification of beings? They argue that there are different roads to reach a city and just as there are different roads to a city there must be different ways to reach purification of beings or to reach NibbÈna. Some people do not like this or they thought the Buddha would not have said this, “The only way”. Some times analogies are not really correct. It is true that there are different roads to reach this town. (I am not familiar with this country so I do not know which roads reach this town.) But they are roads, they are not marshes or forests. And so the road is the only way to reach this town. There may be different roads but they are roads. In the same way, there may be different ways of practicing mindfulness but they must be mindfulness. Only mindfulness can lead us to the attainment of NibbÈna. Also, if we say physical exercise is the only way to build big muscles, I think no one would object to that. If you want to build big muscles you have to do physical exercise. Without physical exercise, you cannot hope to build muscles. But, physical exercise can take different forms such as weight lifting or using machines and so on. In the same way, mindfulness is the only way to reach NibbÈna, but mindfulness may take different forms. Even in this discourse on the Foundations of Mindfulness, mindfulness practice is taught in twenty-one ways. There are twenty-one different kinds of mindfulness practice to choose from. Therefore, I think it is correct to say that this is the only way. So mindfulness is the only way.

People may argue here because the word used here is “ekÈyano”, one way. But in another place-in the Dhammapada-Buddha said clearly, “This alone is the way and there is no other way for the purity of wisdom.” So we cannot argue that Buddha said there is any other way. He expressly said that this alone is the way and there is no other way. So I think we must accept that this is the only way for the purification of beings. If we consider it with reference to the practice it becomes clear.

I have said that mindfulness is like a guard, and once the guard is removed anything can come in. So as long as mindfulness is at the sense doors, our minds are pure. No unwholesome mental states can come into our minds, because mindfulness is there guarding the sense doors. Once mindfulness is removed, or once we lose mindfulness, all these mental defilements come in. So mindfulness is the only way to keep the mind pure. Please note here also that mindfulness is one of the eight Factors of the Path described in the Dhammapada, and if the Eightfold Path is the “only way”, then mindfulness surely is the only way too.

Again, mindfulness may take different forms, such as mindfulness of the body, mindfulness of feeling, mindfulness of consciousness, mindfulness of dhamma objects or mindfulness of parts of the body and so on. So, if it is mindfulness it is the only way for the purification of beings. For the purification of beings means for the purification of the minds of beings. Because Buddha is more concerned about the purification of mind than the purification of the physical body-although it does not mean that we do not take care of the cleanliness of the physical body- what is more important for us is the cleanliness of our minds. So, the purification of beings here means purification of minds of beings.

In the Commentaries, it is said that personal cleanliness or cleanliness of the body as well as the cleanliness of the place are conducive to concentration and wisdom. So we also need to keep our bodies clean and keep the place where we meditate clean. Although we are not to neglect the cleanliness of the body we should be more concerned about the cleanliness of our minds. So here the Buddha said that mindfulness is the only way for the purification of minds of beings.

With this passage Buddha mentioned the benefits we will get from the practice of mindfulness. The first benefit the Buddha mentiond is purification of mind. Then Buddha said, “for the overcoming of sorrow and lamentation”. If we want to overcome sorrow and lamentation or crying aloud we should practice mindfulness. Mindfulness is the only way to overcome sorrow and lamentation. Here sorrow is a mental state. Lamentation is crying aloud through sorrow and saying this thing or that. To overcome sorrow and lamentation also we should practice the Foundations of Mindfulness.

“For the disappearance of pain and grief”: Pain here means physical pain, pain in the body, and grief means mental pain, depression, ill will, hatred; all these are included in the word “grief”. For the overcoming and disappearance of pain and grief we should practice the Foundations of Mindfulness. As I said you may not
conquer pain, you may not overcome pain altogether, pain may not disappear altogether. But, if you practice mindfulness you will be able to live with pain and accept it. Like that of the Venerable Anuruddha, your mind will not be disturbed or perturbed by the physical pain. If your mind is not perturbed by physical pain, pain is virtually non-existent. So, for the disappearance of pain or the overcoming of pain, we should practice mindfulness meditation. For the overcoming of grief, overcoming of ill will, depression and so on we should practice mindfulness meditation.

Grief is a mental state and sorrow is also a mental state. They are actually connected with each other. These are mental states and so these mental states can be overcome or made to disappear or can be avoided by the practice of mindfulness.

Mind cannot take two things or more than one thing at a time. Mind can only take one object at a time. I think we are lucky. If mind could take two or more things at a time our suffering would be much greater. Since mind can take only one thing at a time, we can overcome sorrow and grief by the practice of mindfulness. Let’s take anger, for example. Suppose I am angry with Mr. A. So long as my mind is on Mr. A, my anger will increase and I will be getting more and more angry with him because I am taking him as the object of my consciousness or mind. But once I turn my mind from Mr. A, who is the source of my anger, to anger itself–the moment I turn my mind to anger itself – Mr. A does not exist for me at that time. He has already disappeared from my mind. When my mind is on the anger itself and when the source of anger has disappeared, anger has to disappear also.

That way, we treat such mental states with mindfulness, with just simple but strong or forceful mindfulness. This is how we deal with what are called emotions such as attachment, anger, hatred, depression, and sorrow. Whatever the mental state, we just treat it with mindfulness and try to be mindful of it. When our mindfulness is really strong, they will surely disappear. So Buddha said, “This is the only way to overcome sorrow and lamentation and to overcome pain and grief.” “This is the only way for reaching the Noble Path.” When you read books on Buddhism, you will see this word “Path” many times. Sometimes it is spelt with a lower case ‘p’, but mostly with the upper case ‘P’. “Path” as a technical term is a name for the combination or group of the eight Factors of the Path – Right Understanding, Right Thought and so on – that arise at the moment of enlightenment. The type of consciousness that is accompanied by these factors is called “Path Consciousness”.

The word “enlightenment” is another technical word whose meaning is not easy to understand. People use this word quite freely, but only a few might understand its
meaning properly. Without definition it is vague. It may mean different things to different persons or different religions: enlightenment for a Buddhist may be quite different from enlightenment for a Christian. When we talk about enlightenment, we should first define it. According to Buddhism, enlightenment means the
eradication of mental defilements and seeing NibbÈna directly, seeing Nibbana face to face, at the same time. As a person practices Vipassana meditation and progresses from one stage to another, to higher and higher stages, as the result of this Vipassana practice, a time will come when in his mind a type of consciousness arises which he has not experienced before.

That type of consciousness, along with its mental concomitants is so powerful that it can eradicate mental defilements altogether, not to come back again. At the same time it takes Nibbana as object. So, what we mean by enlightenment is ” what happens at that moment” – a moment, when that consciousness arises, eradicates mental defilements and takes Nibbana as object. That consciousness is called “Path Consciousness”. Immediately following that Path Consciousness are two or three moments of Fruition Consciousness. You have to understand Abhidhamma to understand this fully.

So for reaching the Noble Path simply means for gaining enlightenment. When you really reach the Noble Path, you become enlightened and you are able to eradicate mental defilements and take Nibbana as object. “This is the only way for the realization of Nibbana”. This is the same thing as reaching the Noble Path. So, when a person reaches the Noble Path, when the Path Consciousness arises in him/her and that consciousness takes Nibbana as object, that is when he/she is said to have realized Nibbana. So, reaching the Noble Path and realization of NibbÈna mean the same thing.

Buddha said that the practice of mindfulness is the only way to purify our minds, the only way to overcome sorrow and lamentation, to overcome pain and grief, to reach the Noble Path and to realize Nibbana, namely, the Four Foundations of Mindfulness. Here also we have the words “foundation” and “mindfulness”. First,
let us understand what mindfulness is. All of us have been practicing mindfulness for, may be, years but sometimes when we are asked, “What is mindfulness?” we may not be able to give a satisfactory answer. “Mindfulness” is the translation of the Pali word “sati”. This discourse is called, “Satipathanna” so you have the word “sati” there. This “sati” is translated as mindfulness. Maybe there is no better word for it.

“Sati” literally means remembering, but it covers more than remembering actually. Etymologically, “sati” means remembering but in normal usage “sati” means more than that. Sati is defined in the Commentaries as remembering and its characteristic is said to be “non-wobbling”, that means “not floating on the surface”. If it is sati, it must not be superficial, it must go deep into the object. That is why I always say, “full awareness of the object,” or “thorough awareness of the object.” Sati is said
to have the function of not losing the object. As long as there is sati, or mindfulness, we do not lose that object, we do not forget that object. Mindfulness has the function of not losing or forgetting the object. It is like a guard at the gate. So, that is what we call mindfulness. Mindfulness is not superficial awareness, it is a deep and thorough awareness of the object.

“Foundations of Mindfulness,” or rather the Pali word “satipathanna,” according to the Commentaries, means mindfulness that rushes toward the object with force, enters into the object and takes the object in its entirety. In order to achieve this, one must set up mindfulness firmly on the object. So “foundation of mindfulness” comes to mean, in practice, firmly setting up mindfulness on the object. In this discourse, Buddha said that there were four foundations of mindfulness. When you practice VipassanÈ meditation at a retreat like this, you practice all these four foundations of mindfulness, but you practice them at random and not one after another in the order given in the Discourse. That is because when you practice Vipassana meditation you have to be mindful of the object at the present moment. You cannot afford  not to be mindful of the object at the present moment. The object at the present moment can be any one of these four. Sometimes the body, sometimes
feelings, sometimes consciousness, and sometimes dhamma objects. You have to take these objects as they come, you have no choice. That is why sometimes
Vipassana meditation is called “choiceless awareness”. That means you have no choice, you just have to take what is presented to you. So you practice these four foundations of mindfulness at random when you practice Vipassana meditation.

Here in the summary the Buddha taught us how to practice the four foundations of mindfulness. So what are the four? “Herein, a monk dwells contemplating the body in the body, ardent, clearly comprehending and mindful, overcoming or removing covetousness and grief in the world.” It is a very short sentence but it has many meanings. “Contemplating the body in the body”: That means when a monk practices mindfulness of the body he is precise. He contemplates the body in the body and he does not contemplate the feeling in the body or he does not contemplate the person in the body and so on. He contemplates the body in the body. In order to have a precise object the Buddha repeated the words “body, feeling, consciousness and dhamma” in these sentences. So that means he is precise in his mindfulness of the body, feelings, consciousness and the dhammas. When he practices body contemplation he is ardent, he is clearly comprehending and he is mindful.

With regard to the word “ardent” I do not know what other meaning it carries in English. This word is the translation of the Pali word “atapi”. Sometimes we lose something when we translate from one language to another. The word “atapi” comes from the word “atapa”. “atapa” means “heat.” Heat of the sun can heat up things so that things become withered and even they may burn. So in the same way the effort heats up the mental defilements or burns them up. So it is called “atapa” in Pali and one who has atapa is called atapi, the “i” denoting possession. So one who possesses atapa is called atapi. When we read the Sutta in Pali and when we read the word atapi we have that in our mind, we see the effort burning up the mental defilements. When you translate this word into English as “ardent” you lose that image. So atapi means he/she makes real effort, not a slack effort, he/she makes a real effort to be mindful and to clearly comprehend.

When Buddha, still a Bodhisatta, sat down under the Bodhi tree to practice to become the Buddha he made a very firm resolution in his mind. “May my skin, sinews and bones remain, and may my flesh and blood dry up, but I will not desist from or give up this superhuman effort until I reach Buddhahood. I will not get up from this seat until I reach Buddhahood, I will make every effort to achieve my aim.” Such an effort is called the “right effort.” So to make the right effort means you have to make a really good effort, not a slackening effort. This word “atapi” implies all these meanings. The right effort to be understood here is the Right Effort that is one of the eight factors of the Path. You may have read about Right Effort in other books. Right Effort means to remove or avoid unwholesome mental states and to acquire and cultivate wholesome mental states. In order to resist unwholesome mental states, in order to resist evil, you need mental effort. If you do not make effort you cannot resist evil. Effort is very useful in resisting or removing unwholesome mental states and also to cultivate wholesome mental states. To develop wholesome mental states you need effort. If you do not make effort you do not come here, if you do not want to make effort you do not go to a retreat at all. So you need a real, strong effort to practice the Foundations of Mindfulness. Here also the Buddha described the monk as being ardent which means he has that kind of effort that burns up the mental defilements. That is indicated by the word atapi in the Pali text.

The next word is “clearly comprehending“. Clearly comprehending means clearly seeing. Whatever object he puts his mind on, he sees it clearly. What does “clearly” mean? He sees it thoroughly, he sees it with wisdom. When a yogi concentrates on breathing, for instance, he sees the breath clearly. He sees the in-breath distinctly from out-breath and out-breath distinctly from in-breath; and also he sees that the breath arises and disappears and that at the moment there are only the
breaths and the awareness of the breaths and no other thing to be called a person or an individual. Such understanding is called “clear comprehension.” When you have clear comprehension about something, you know that thing and all its aspects. And also according to the teachings of the Buddha, you know that there are just the thing observed and the mind that observes and none other which you could call a person or an individual, a man or a woman. Seeing in this way is called clear comprehension. This clear comprehension will come only after some time, not right at the beginning. You practice mindfulness, but right at the beginning you may not even see the breaths clearly. Sometimes they are mixed together and very vague. Little by little with the growth of your concentration and practice, you’ll see the objects more and more clearly and then also their arising and disappearing and so on. So this clear comprehension comes not right at the beginning but after one has
gained some experience.

In order for this clear comprehension to arise, we need one more thing. Although it is not mentioned in this Discourse we need one more thing and that is concentration. Without concentration clear comprehension cannot come. What is concentration? Concentration is a mental state or a mental factor, which keeps
the components of mind squarely on the object, and does not let them go to other objects. That is what we call concentration. It is usually described as the mind being able to be on an object for a long period of time. For example, if you take the breath as an object your mind is always on the breath and the mind does not go anywhere else. That is what we call concentration. Actually, at every moment also the mental factor or state which is called concentration keeps the mind and its components unified on the object, it keeps them together and does not let them go to another object. This concentration is essential for clear comprehension to arise. Without this concentration we cannot hope to see things clearly, we cannot hope to get clear comprehension.

When we get concentration, our mind calms down and becomes quiet and that is the time when we begin to see things. It is like, say, water. At first there is dirt or mud in the water and so we cannot see through the water. But when the dirt or mud settles down and the water becomes clear we can see through it. So, mind needs to be like the water, settled, because there are many dirt or many mental defilements in our mind. So long as our minds are contaminated by mental defilements we cannot see things clearly. We need to suppress or let these mental defilements which are called mental hindrances settle down so that we can see clearly.

When we get concentration we will be able to keep these mental hindrances settled. When the mental hindrances are subdued or settled, mind becomes clear and it is the time when clear comprehension or the true knowledge of things arises.

In order to get clear comprehension, we need concentration and concentration is not mentioned here. But we must take that concentration is also included in this passage because without concentration we cannot get clear comprehension. Sometimes some words may be left out but we have to understand them as
mentioned through inference. Let’s say there is a flat rock and a hunter is following a deer and he sees foot prints on one side, but on the flat rock itself he does not see any footprints, and again he sees the footprints on the other side. So from this he infers that the deer must have run across the flat rock. He sees the beginning and he sees the end and so he infers the middle, that the deer must have run on the rock. In the same way here, to be mindful is the beginning and clear comprehension is something like the end. So, when these two are mentioned, the middle is also virtually mentioned because without the middle – concentration — there can be no clear comprehension.

Then the last word here is “mindful”. Mindfulness is put last here but actually, in practice it should come after “ardent”. We make effort, so we have mindfulness. We have mindfulness, so we have concentration and concentration leads to clear comprehension. We have “mindfulness” here, but I have already defined mindfulness so I do not need to define it again.

A monk dwells contemplating the body in the body. A monk practices the foundation of mindfulness on the body, being ardent, making true effort, being mindful and being thoroughly aware of the object and having concentration and clear comprehension. How many components do we now have? Ardent is one component, clearly comprehending is another component, concentration is yet another and mindfulness, another.

So we have four mental states here. These four mental states are the components of the practice. When we practice there must be these four mental states working together harmoniously. But, there is one more mental state which is not mentioned here, and that is faith or confidence. Confidence or faith is also an important factor because if we do not have confidence in this practice we would not practice. We do not really have blind faith but we have faith or confidence in the Buddha and
His teachings. We believe that just by paying attention to these objects we will be able to see the true nature of these things, the impermanent, suffering and non-soul nature. So we should have that much confidence because without confidence no work can be successful. Confidence, therefore, is also a part of the practice of meditation and although it is not actively operating at the moment of meditation or practice of mindfulness, it is still there working harmoniously with the other factors. So, altogether we get five factors and these are the five factors that are called five Mental Faculties. In Pali they are called Indriyas. Meditation teachers are fond of talking about these five factors. These five factors must be working simultaneously and harmoniously with each other if we are to have a good practice of meditation.

As I said, in the beginning we may be lacking in clear comprehension but later when our concentration develops, we will be able to see things clearly and so on and these five components will be working in harmony. What if they do not work in harmony? We are lost! When we are practicing, especially important is the balance of effort and concentration. If they are not balanced, if there is an excess of one or the other, we are lost, our meditation is nothing. The effort we make must be just enough, not too much, and not too little. Sometimes we tend to make too much effort because we want to achieve something; we become a little greedy and so we
make more effort. When we make more effort, we become restless, agitated and then we lose concentration. So, too much effort will not work. What if there is too little effort? We become sleepy, lazy and we cannot concentrate and cannot practice either. So, the effort we make must be neither too much nor too little. When there is excess of effort there is not enough of concentration. Among effort and concentration, when one goes up the other goes down. Too much effort, and concentration will go down. When you make too little effort, again concentration goes down. Concentration also must not be too much. When we have too much concentration we tend to become lazy. We tend to take it easy or we tend to slacken our effort.

Suppose we are practicing and we have good concentration. When we have good concentration, we do not have to make much effort and so we tend to slacken the effort. When we slacken our effort, the degree of effort goes down and we become lazy or sleepy. In that case we have to step up our effort, by making more effort and paying closer attention or sometimes by adding some things to note like three or more objects in succession at a time. So, the effort and concentration must be balanced so that we have good meditation and clear comprehension.

Sometime, say, we are practicing and we have good concentration and all of a sudden we lose concentration. Probably we have made more effort than is needed. We want to make it better and so we make more effort and the result is the opposite of what we want. Sometimes you are practicing meditation, your concentration is good and even though your concentration is good, you tend to go sleepy or nodding. That means you have too much concentration. If there is too much concentration you have to make the level of concentration go down by stepping up effort, by taking more objects at a time and so on.

So, meditation is not easy. I do not want to discourage you, but meditation is not easy. It is very delicate. Just a little bit of an unbalanced mental state can destroy the concentration you have built up with great effort. So, these five mental states should be working simultaneously and also they should be working in harmony. Meditation practice is like a machine. There are many parts in a machine and each part must work properly. If one part does not work properly, the whole machine
goes out of control. In the same way, if any one of the factors does not work properly, the whole work of meditation is thrown out of balance. Therefore, each one of these five mental factors must be working properly and harmoniously with other factors.

Here comes the value of mindfulness. Mindfulness is a regulating mental factor. So it helps to keep effort from becoming too much, it helps concentration from be
coming too much and so on. So, the mindfulness factor is a regulating factor among these five components in the practice of meditation. That is why it is said that mindfulness is always needed; there can be no excess of mindfulness. Mindfulness is needed everywhere like the seasoning of salt in all dishes and like a Prime Minister who does all the work of a king. Mindfulness is a very important factor in these five factors but every factor is important and everyone must be working in harmony and in balance with the other factors. When the five mental factors are working in balance and a yogi is clearly comprehending, then what is the result? The result is overcoming covetousness and grief in the world. That is the result a yogi gets from clearly comprehending in the practice of mindfulness meditation.

Now here, most English translations missed the point. They translate it as “having overcome” or “having abandoned”, or “having removed” covetousness and grief in the world. What is the practice for? What is this mindfulness practice for? It is for overcoming covetousness and grief. Covetousness means attachment and grief means ill will or anger. So, Vipassana or Satipattana meditation is “for overcoming” covetousness and grief.

If a person has already overcome covetousness and grief he/she does not need to practice. For this very purpose we are practicing mindfulness, but if we have already achieved this purpose we do not need to practice mindfulness. So, here we should translate it as “overcoming (at the same time) covetousness and grief in the world,” and not “having overcome.” That means the yogi overcomes covetousness and grief as he practices mindfulness. I want you to be aware of this. (Here an explanation with reference to Pali grammatical construction would be helpful; but since it would be too involved I have no choice but to ignore it.)

Overcoming covetousness and grief in the world means avoiding craving or attachment or anger or ill will concerning the object the yogi is observing. “In the world” means in the world of body, feelings and so on, concerning that object. We see one object and we can be attached to that object. If we come to the conclusion that it is beautiful, or it is good, we will be attached to it; and we can have anger, or hatred, etc., towards that object if we decided it was ugly or disgusting. So, these
mental defilements can come into our minds when we experience something.

In order to prevent them from arising, we need to make some protection and that protection is mindfulness. When we are mindful, they will not get a chance to get into our minds. When we are mindful, when we comprehend clearly, and when we see the objects clearly, we know that these objects come and go, these objects are impermanent and so not to be attached to them. So, we can avoid covetousness or attachment and grief or hatred regarding that object by the practice of mindfulness.

Whether we say “overcoming” or “removing” or whatever, actually we are avoiding or preventing them from arising. Not that they have come and then we overcome them, or we remove them after they have come. The meaning really is preventing covetousness and grief from arising in our minds. If we do not practice mindfulness on the object they will surely come, either covetousness or grief, or attachment or hatred. These mental states can come, but by the practice of mindfulness we
can prevent them from coming. Preventing them from arising in our mind is what is meant by overcoming them. (But if they have arisen, of course, we should make them the object of our attention to eliminate them.)

When we talk about enlightenment we say, “at the moment of enlightenment” mental defilements are eradicated. What mental defilements are eradicated at that moment? The present ones, or past ones or the future ones? The past is already past, we do not have to do anything to get rid of them, and the future defilements are not here yet, so you cannot do anything about them.

What of the present defilements? If they are present there can be no enlightenment. Because enlightenment is a wholesome state and those mental defilements are unwholesome states. Wholesome states and unwholesome states cannot exist together. They do not coexist. So the defilements that are said to be eradicated at the moment of enlightenment are not of the past, not of the future and not of the present.

Then what defilements are eradicated? Actually, strictly speaking, those that are eradicated are not called defilements, or kilesas in Pali. They are called latencies or anusayas in Pali, which means the potential to arise. What the enlightenment consciousness eradicates is that potential. That means when something is always with us we say we have that thing. Take, for example, smoking. Suppose you smoke but right now you do not. If I ask you, “Do you smoke? “ you would say, “Yes, I do.” Because you smoked in the past and you will smoke in the future and you have not given up smoking. So although you are not smoking at the very moment, you say, “Yes, I smoke.”

In the same way, now right at this moment, I hope I have no mental defilements in my mind and you have no mental defilements in your mind. But after the talk you go out and you step on something sharp or someone pushes you and you get angry and thus the mental defilement comes when there are the conditions for them. So we say we have mental defilements. I have mental defilements, you have mental defilements, but not right at this moment. So, that “liability to arise” is what is eradicated by enlightenment. The mental defilements that are said to be eradicated at the moment of enlightenment are actually nothing but that ability or liability to come up. When they come up they are already there. In the same way here, overcoming covetousness and grief means avoiding or preventing them from arising in our minds. How? By the practice of mindfulness. We make effort, we apply mindfulness and we have concentration and we see things clearly. When we see things clearly there is no chance for these mental defilements to come into the mind. In this way, Vipassana or mindfulness practice removes mental defilement.

This removal or overcoming is just momentary, just by substitution. Next moment they may come back. It is of a very short duration. It is called abandonment by substitution. That means you abandon the unwholesome mental states by substituting them with the wholesome mental states. When there is wholesome mental state there cannot be any unwholesome mental state. You put wholesome mental states in the place and so unwholesome mental states do not get a chance to arise. That
is called abandonment by substitution. That will last for only a moment. The next moment they may come back. At the moment of Vipassana the covetousness and grief are removed in that way. You get out of Vipassana and you meet some conditions for them to arise, and they will arise.

There is another kind of abandonment called “temporary abandonment.” Abandonment by pushing away. When you push something away it may stay there for sometime, it may not come back quickly, like plants in the water. If you push them away they may stay away for some time, but then very slowly they may come back. That kind of removing or abandonment is called “temporary abandonment or removing”, or removal by pushing away. That is achieved by jhanas. When a person gets jhanas, or experiences jhanas, he/she is able to push these mental defilements away for some time. They may not come to his/her mind for the whole
day or maybe a week or a month, but in this case too they can come back.

The third removal is called total removal. The Pali word is “samuccheda = cutting off”, i.e., removal by cutting off. It is like you cut the root of a tree and it never grows back. So the total removal or removal once and for all is called removal by cutting off and that is achieved at the moment of enlightenment. The mental defilement eradicated at the moment of enlightenment never comes back to that person. An Arahant has eradicated all mental defilements. He has no attachment,
no anger, no pride, no jealousy and other unwholesome mental states. Even though they are provoked Arahants will not get angry. Even though they may
see a very, very attractive and beautiful object, they will not feel any attachment or desire for that object.

Those are the persons who have eradicated mental defilements by totally cutting them off. These are the three kinds of removing, and here we can understand the
two kinds of removing. I have already explained the first removing. There can also be the second kind of removing here. That is, if you have practiced meditation well and you are able to avoid covetousness and grief with regard to the objects you observe, you will find that you are able to avoid covetousness and grief even with regard to those objects that you do not observe. Here “do not observe” means do not treat with mindfulness.

Naturally, the objects we come across can cause covetousness and grief in our minds. If we do not practice mindfulness on the object, then we will have attachment or ill will towards that object. That happens to most people. If you are good at Vipassana practice and you have this experience of avoiding covetousness and grief with regard to objects that are observed, you will find that you are able to prevent them from arising even with regard to those that are not observed. That is what is
called temporary removal by Vipassana.

Vipassana can achieve only these two kinds of removal – momentary removal and temporary removal. But Vipassana cannot achieve the third one, the total removal; that will be done by enlightenment or Path Consciousness. When Buddha said “overcoming covetousness and grief in the world”, he meant that the monk was able to avoid covetousness and grief from arising with regard to that object which he is observing.

Here “covetousness” means all kinds of attachment, greed, lust, and other similar mental states and “grief” means not just grief but anger, hatred, depression, sorrow; all are included in grief. There are three roots of unwholesomeness and they are attachment, anger and ignorance. Among these three, two are mentioned here. Covetousness is actually the first one which is “lobha” or attachment and the second one is “dosa”. So, by covetousness we mean all shades of lobha and by grief
we mean all shades of dosa. Moha (ignorance) is not included here because moha is very difficult to prevent and eradicate. So, in this sentence we must understand that a monk practices body contemplation making effort, applying mindfulness, getting concentration and clearly comprehending and at the same time he is able to avoid covetousness and grief from arising. It is the same with regard to feelings, to consciousness and to dhamma objects. (The Commentary says that the statement ‘overcoming covetousness and grief’ refers to the overcoming of all the five mental hindrances, because when covetousness and grief that are the strongest of the five hindrances are mentioned, we must understand that the other hindrances are also mentioned.)

You know the four foundations of mindfulness, four kinds of setting up of mindfulness. There are four because there are four kinds of objects. The first one is body. Sometimes body does not mean the whole physical body, but a group of some material properties. Breathing is also called the body. Different parts of the body are
also called the body. By the word “body” we must understand anything that is associated with the body.

The second is feelings. Feeling is a mental state. Now we have pain here, physical pain and we experience that physical pain with our mind. In our mind there is a mental state called feeling. Since it is pain, feeling is the painful feeling. When Buddha said a monk contemplates feeling in the feeling, He means the monk is contemplating on that mental state and not necessarily on the pain there. In practice, when we have pain we have to concentrate on the pain and be mindful of it because that is practical. But actually, when we are making notes as, “pain, pain”, we are really making notes of the mental state that feels the pain in the body. That feeling is of three kinds – pleasant, unpleasant and neutral.

The third is consciousness. It is usually translated as mind, but I think consciousness is a better translation. The Pali word is “citta”. This means consciousness. In Buddhist psychology, mind is composed of four things. So what we call “mind” is a group of or combination of four things. Sometimes there may be confusion regarding these terms: mind and consciousness. Let us say mind is composed of two things first, consciousness and mental factors. Consciousness is defined as the awareness of an object. Here awareness is not like awareness in the practice of meditation. It is just mere awareness. It is like I am aware of someone there although I am looking this way. That kind of awareness is called consciousness. At least, it is called consciousness in Abhidhamma. The English word may mean more or less than that, I am not sure.

Please note that although we use the word consciousness for the word “citta”, it is not an exact translation of the word. Consciousness is defined as a mental state which is the awareness of the object. Only when there is awareness of the object can there be contact with the object, feeling of the object, liking of the object, disliking of the object and so on. So, these mental states are subordinate to consciousness, but they are also components of the mind. So, mind is first divided into
two – consciousness and mental factors. Contact, feeling, perception, attention, like, dislike and so on are all called mental factors. According to Abhidhamma there are fifty-two of them, and these fifty-two are grouped into three – feeling, perception and mental formations. So when we add consciousness to these three we get four kinds of mental states. It’s amazing that the Buddha could define and differentiate each of these mental states that arise simultaneously taking the same object.

When we practice meditation and say “sorry, sorry”, that means we have a consciousness accompanied by sorrow or something like that. It could be contemplation on consciousness. When I say, “angry, angry”, I am doing contemplation of consciousness.

The last one is the dhamma. This is one Pali word that is most difficult to translate or that cannot be translated adequately. This word means different things in different contexts. You cannot translate the word “dhamma” with just one English word. If you do, you will be wrong. Here, dhamma simply means the objects that are mental hindrances, the five aggregates, the twelve bases, the seven Factors of Enlightenment and Four Noble Truths. They are called dhamma in this discourse. So, we cannot translate this word. Mostly it is translated as “mind object” or “mental object”, but each of these translations is not satisfactory. Therefore it is better to keep the word “dhamma” untranslated to avoid confusion.

Dwelling on dhamma objects: if you concentrate on anger, then you are doing contemplation on the dhamma. Here dhamma does not mean the teachings or discourse or other things. If you see something and you are mindful of seeing, then you are doing dhamma object contemplation. So, the dhamma object contemplation is very wide and includes mental hindrances, aggregates, bases, Factors of Enlightenment and the Four Noble Truths. If we translate it as “mind object” and we take it to mean “mind as object”, then some objects are not mind. If we translate it as “mental object”, then everything is object of mind. Body
is also object of mind. Since we cannot get a satisfactory and adequate translation, it is better to leave it untranslated.

I have already told you that you practice these four at random and so when you are really practicing do not try to find out which one you are doing. This is a distraction. As a practitioner of Vipassana you have to take what is there at the present moment. Do not try to find out whether it is the body, or the feeling, or the consciousness or the dhamma. Whatever there is, your duty is to be mindful of that object so you do not have covetousness and grief regarding that object.
In order not to have covetousness and grief you have to be mindful. You have no time to find out whether it is consciousness or dhamma or other things. When you practice Vipassana meditation you practice all these four foundations of mindfulness as they come along. So long as you are mindful of the object at the present moment you are doing fine, your meditation is good. What is not good is when you are carried away by your thoughts and forget about meditation for some seconds or maybe minutes. That is not good. But so long as you are mindful, you are doing the right thing, your meditation is going well.

Sometimes, yogis think that if they do not concentrate on the main object they are not doing meditation. Sometimes they say, “Oh, we have to spend time or waste time noting the mind going here and there and we do not have much time to concentrate on the main object.” Whether you are aware of the main object or the secondary object, so long as you are mindful at that moment you are doing fine. You are meditating and practicing VipassanÈ. What is important in Vipassana meditation is first to be mindful of the object at the present moment. Sometimes you may miss to be mindful and then that missing also becomes the object of
meditation. You have to say to yourself, “missing, missing” or something like that before you go back to the home object.

There should be mindfulness always, mindfulness here, mindfulness there; and if you can keep mindfulness intense, then you will make rapid progress and you will begin to see the true nature of things. That is, you will begin to see the objects arising and disappearing. When you see the arising and disappearing you also see that they are impermanent. When you see they are impermanent you also see their suffering nature and also the non-soul nature or that you have no control over these, that they arise and disappear at their own free will. So, when you see them you are said to see the three general characteristics of all conditioned phenomena.

Seeing of these three general characteristics of all conditioned phenomena is the essence of Vipassana. If you practice Vipassana you must see these three characteristics because the word “Vipassana” means “seeing in different ways” and seeing in different ways means seeing in the light of impermanence, in the light of suffering and in the light of non-soul. What is important in Vipassana is to see these three characteristics and in order to see these three characteristics we need to observe, we need to watch and pay attention to the objects at that present moment. In order to pay attention to the object at the present moment we need to make effort. Without effort nothing worthwhile can be achieved. This is why Buddha said, “ardent, clearly comprehending and mindful.” When we can fulfill these conditions – being ardent, clearly comprehending and mindful – and have concentration we will be able to overcome covetousness and grief regarding the object
we observe.

This is the summary of the discourse called the Maha Satipathana Sutta, the Great Discourse on the Foundations of Mindfulness. If you understand the summary this much I think you have a firm understanding of what mindfulness practice is, and so you will understand how to practice mindfulness meditation. There are other detailed instructions for the practice of mindfulness and I hope you are familiar with all these instructions. Following these instructions, making effort, applying mindfulness and seeing things  clearly, may all of us be able to overcome covetousness and grief in the world.

The Happiest Year Ever

The Year 2000 has a special significance for both TBSA and Dhammananda Vihara, because it is the 20th Anniversary Year of the founding of both in the US. Through these 20 years, TBSA and Dhammananda Vihara have served their devotees, both Burmese and non-Burmese, very well.

Twenty years ago Burmese immigrants were just beginning their lives in an alien country with no opportnity to follow their religion as they did in their native country. Things have changed greatly now; Burmese immigrants are now enjoying the full opportunities regarding their religion. They can go to the monasteries whenever they feel like doing so; they can have soon-kywayswhenever they want; they can have their sons ordained as koyins (sameneras) and monks with every facility; and best of all they can get religious knowledge at the basic and advanced levels, and practice meditation under the guidance of competent Sayadaws.

Non-Burmese people also benefit from the presence of TBSA and Dhammananda Vihara. If they want reliable information about Buddha’s Teachings and guidance in the practice of Vipassana meditation, Dhammananda Vihara is always ready to help them. All this is possible because TBSA and Dhammananda Vihara are here to serve devotees as well as people interested in Theravada Buddhism and vipassana meditation. TBSA and Dhammananda Vihara are grateful to the devotees for their generous support and donations without which the existence of both would be impossible. We think we are fortunate that we can do something for the happiness of the devotees in return.

The word happiness is perhaps the most beautiful word in any language. Everybody wants happiness and tries to get it by any means. Some think that happiness comes from wealth, others believe that it comes from beauty, and still there are others who think that power and position can create happiness. But experience has shown us that true happiness does not come from these things, because they are fraught with dangers like worry and anxiety. So, if we cannot find happiness in wealth, beauty, power and others, we must find it somewhere else.

We do not need to be rich or beautiful or powerful to be happy. When we give or practice dana, we find that we feel happy; when we help others, we feel happy; when we are peaceful, we feel happy. So, true happiness lies not in wealth and others, but in giving or dana, helping others and being peaceful. In short, happiness lies, according to Buddha’s Teachings, in doing merit, in keeping our minds clear of mental defilements and having our minds imbued with loving-kindness, compassion and good will. Buddha once said, “Do not be afraid of merit; he who is afraid of merit is afraid of happiness.”

Every time we are ushered into a year, we wish ‘a Happy New Year’. But it is not enough just to make wishes; we must make the year a happy one by staying happy. One way to stay happy is to keep our minds happy. In order to keep our minds happy we need to practice something which conduces to happiness. One of
the practices which is most conducive to happiness is loving-kindness; by it we can easily and inexpensively make the year a HAPPY ONE. After all, in this time of wide-spread violence and hate, only the practice of loving-kindness can diminish the suffering of all beings. So, let us fill this year with loving-kindness and make it THE HAPPIEST YEAR EVER in our lives.

Dhamma in a Foreign Land

Since 1997 Venerable U Silananda and I have been involved in the founding of a Theravada Buddhist monastery in Mexico. That monastery, the Dhamma Vihara, was opened on January 30, 1999. At the beginning we had to focus almost all our energy and resources on establishing the monastery. Today, three years later, we are glad to announce that we are starting to see the fruits of our endeavors. The new monastery has begun offering the Buddha’s Teachings to the people of Mexico.

I spent the 1999 vassa (rains retreat) in the Dhamma Vihara. Here is an account of what happened. At the beginning of August, when we arrived, the rainy season was already under way. The heavy rains forced our attention on improving the drainage system and fixing various leaks.
The gutter under the eaves for draining rainwater had not been properly installed. Because of that a large amount of water accumulated in the back gallery near the meditation hall. Before long we had this problem solved and could feel safe that the water would not flood the lower level of the house. Despite the rains, we had a good number of visitors coming to the monastery. During the first weekend we had a full house and had to accommodate some of the people in the dining room and the library.

The daily activities at the Dhamma Vihara start at 4:30 a.m. with chanting and meditation. The chanting, which is in Pali, includes the Three Refuges, the qualities of the Buddha, Dhamma and Sangha, and loving-kindness. The morning service ends at 5:30 a.m. At the end of the day, from 8 to 9 p.m., there is sitting meditation. Every one at the monastery must attend both the morning service and the evening meditation. At the end of the evening meditation there is a ceremony for the sharing of merits. Breakfast is served at 6:00 a.m. and lunch at 11:00 a.m. We encourage the lay people who stay at the monastery, both visitors and residents, to observe eight precepts. For those who want to do intensive meditation, two more one-hour meditation periods starting at 8 a.m. and 2 p.m. are provided.

Since the Dhamma Vihara is a new monastery, there is never a lack of things to do. In fact, there are lots of improvements to be made. This may
keep some people busy enough not to do meditation, but it is a very meritorious deed for them. Among the many things that we accomplished during the past rains retreat was the remodeling of the upper level, the monk’s quarters and the library. Now, we have a fully functional library and
three small rooms for monks. Improvements were done to the bathrooms and the water supply. A small two-room cabin has been added. All these improvements and additions have enhanced the monastery’s capacity to receive visitors. Visitors can now comfortably stay in the monastery while they learn and practice the Buddha’s Teachings. We hope that in the near future we will be able to further expand our facilities to offer the Dhamma to more people in Mexico.

In October 1999, we offered our first weekend retreat. More than twenty people attended. The topic of the Dhamma talk was the “Four Noble Truths”. We distributed copies of the Buddha’s first discourse. The participants read and commented it. We also had a regular number of yogis who come to do self-retreats and service to the monastery. The last Saturday of the month there is a Dhamma talk open to the public. Also we are planning to hold workshops for children and introductory courses on Theravada Buddhism and Abhidhamma.

Venerable U Silananda arrived the last week of January 2000 to give a retreat and celebrate the first anniversary of the Dhamma Vihara. The retreat was a success. About twenty five people attended Sayadaw’s retreat. The subject of the Dhamma talk was how to practice vipassana meditation according to the Mahasatipatthana Sutta (The Great Discourse on the Foundation of Mindfulness). It was an intensive retreat consisting of alternate periods of sitting and walking meditation. The retreat began early in the morning with the practice of forgiveness, loving-kindness and taking the eight precepts. After the retreat some of the participants said that they wished it had lasted longer. After the retreat Venerable U Silananda returned to Mexico City for further activities.

Now as we stand in the present we can look back and forward in time. Three years ago when we started this project there was nothing we could
look back. Today we could look back and rejoice at all that has been done — right now it is possible to practice and learn Theravada Buddhism in
Mexico in the Dhamma Vihara. Also we could look into the future, and we should, because there are still a lot of things to be done to make the Dhamma more easily available in that country. And the new Board of Directors of Centro Mexicano del Buddhismo Theravada (CMBT) is working to achieve this goal. We believe there should be more rooms and cabins for meditators at the Dhamma Vihara and a larger and more functional kitchen located in a separate building. The Dhamma Vihara should have space to accommodate comfortably at least twenty yogis. CMBT also plans to have its own center in Mexico City, which is one of the largest cities in the world — the figures for 1995 indicate that it occupies the fourth place after Tokyo (Japan), Sao Paulo (Brazil) and New York (USA). We believe that a center in Mexico City will give us the
opportunity to reach out to more people who may be interested and can benefit from the practice of meditation.

The Dhamma Vihara is located on the foothills of the Sierra Madre Oriental near the city of Jalapa in the State of Veracruz. It is a 5 hour trip from Mexico City – a scenic drive through mountains with snow-capped volcanoes, arid plains and pine forests. The trip itself is a relief from the highly contaminated air and over-crowding of Mexico City. As the car starts climbing the mountains toward Puebla you can see below the dense air covering the huge valley of Mexico. And arriving and staying in the Dhamma Vihara for a while, even for a weekend, may even relieve you from the stress and anxiety of modern life. In this materialistic world it is said that ‘time is money’, but after spending a weekend in the Dhamma Vihara you may conclude that ‘time is well-being’. So it is worthwhile to pay a visit to this Theravada monastery. The monastery building has two levels. The first level has four rooms for lay people, two complete bathrooms, a kitchen, a dining room and meditation room. The second level has three small rooms for monks, two bathrooms and a library. Nearby there is a cabin with two rooms and a bathroom. There is electricity and running water. Currently we are using a cellular phone since there is no phone line in that remote area. The climate is mild throughout the year with abundant rains from June to October. If you decide to visit us you may contact us by e-mail ( Also you may get detailed information in our web
pages (


New Buddhist Center in Puerto Rico

We are happy to announce that the Caribbean Buddhist Center for Meditation and Study (CMEBC) has been founded in Puerto Rico and that Venerable U Silananda has kindly accepted to be its spiritual director. This new center is affiliated with the Mexican Center of Theravada Buddhism (CMBT).

The founders of this center are Ronald Martínez Lahoz and Francisco José Ramos both of Puerto Rico. Ronald Martínez Lahoz is a long time meditator and a student of Buddhism who has spent several months at Mahasi Meditation Center in Yangon, Myanmar. Also he has met Venerable U Silananda on various occasions and spent some months meditating and studying at Taungpulu Monastery. Francisco José Ramos is a philosopher and a Zen practitioner for many
years following the Soto tradition initiated by Dogen Zenji. He has been in retreats at the Zen Mountain Monastery in Mount Tremper, New York.

Currently in Puerto Rico, there are only Tibetan and Zen Buddhism. Among the objectives of the center, are (i) to practice and study Theravada Buddhism following the Mahasi Sayadaw tradition, (ii) to analyze the difference between Theravada and Zen Buddhism, (iii) to spread the practice and Buddhist teachings in Puerto Rico and the Caribbean, and (iv) to build a meditation center and monastery in the Theravada tradition.

Now the center is offering meditation sittings and instructions at a house in San Juan, Puerto Rico. They have already established a presence in the World Wide Web where you can visit, get more information, and contact them. Their web address is:

The Making of the Mexican Vihara

THANKS to your generous support and that of a committed group of Mexicans, soon we will be seeing a functioning Theravada Vihara on the soil of Mexico. During the past months, there have been many positive developments towards this goal. Right now, people are working hard in the existing house to make it available to accommodate people. We expect that house to be ready as early as the end of August 1998. We still need your help and support to build a meditation hall, cabins for monks and meditators, and to buy a truck. We are planning to have a grand opening ceremony with the assistance of Theravada monks and lay people on Saturday January 30, 1999. And you are mostcordially invited to attend. Please read on for a little of history and a detailed account of the latest developments.

The Mexican Center of Theravada Buddhism (CMBT) was founded on May 2, 1997 in the City of Veracruz, Mexico, by a group of Mexicans interested on bringing the practice and study of Theravada Buddhism to their country. They had the vision of bringing the ageless wisdom of Buddhism to their own country in spite of the great difficulties that project would pose. They saw that the interest in meditation and Buddhism was slowly but steadily growing and people were having to travel or to bring teachers from abroad to impart the teaching of the Buddha.

The founders, a small group of meditators led by Dr. Alejandro Córdova and Rosa María Martínez, had already met Venerable U Silananda on several occasions. Some of them had also spent some time practicing meditation and studying Buddhism in Taungpulu Monastery, in Boulder Creek, California. So when the time came to found the association, they approached Venerable U Silananda and asked for his advice and spiritual guidance. Venerable U Silananda made two trips to Mexico to meet with the group in October 1996 and February 1997. During those meetings Venerable U Silananda had the opportunity to hear the details of the plan and
also visit the proposed site of the Mexican Vihara. At that time, as one of the group members recently wrote, the project of having a Vihara in Mexico was just ‘a most precious dream’ – just a dream!

A noble dream indeed to bring the teachings of the Buddha to Mexico, but ahead awaited the task of legally forming the association, the financial expense of buying the property, and the enormous effort of building a Vihara in a remote area in the mountains of eastern Mexico. It was a warm night on February 1997 in the City of
Veracruz and there sat Venerable U Silananda, myself, and the group discussing about how to accomplish these goals.

Today, little more than 15 months have elapsed since that meeting, but we are pleased to report that a non-profit association was legally formed in Mexico and 22 acres of land was purchased – no debt remains. Without your help and support, this would not have been possible. When we wrote in the previous newsletters about the Mexican Vihara, we asked for your support because we knew that the Mexican people alone did not have the financial capacity to undertake this
project. And your timely response in the way of donations really made possible the buying of the property.

We are being informed by the Board of Directors of CMBT that already 182 lots have been donated making a total of $30,600. There are still 218 lots available
for donation. Also now the association has 71 members up from the 19 founding members. What remains now is the building of the Vihara. On the property there is only a small house with two rooms, a bathroom, and a kitchen. The access road to the property, about four miles of gravel road, has recently been repaired. Electricity is now available in the small house. Still there is no telephone.

Right now there are an architect and construction workers adding an extension and doing repairs to the existing house so that it can accommodate people as soon as the end of August 1998. When this project is finished, we expect that at least one lay person will be living on the property. Soon after that, they will start building a
dwelling place for monks and later a meditation hall and other structures.

We plan to hold a grand opening ceremony on Saturday January 30, 1999. Venerable U Silananda has already agreed with that date. To this ceremony we are inviting other Theravada monks to consecrate a Sima to create a place where ordinations and other acts of Sangha can be performed. Lay people are most cordially invited. Anybody who would like to attend is urged to contact me.

We hope it will not take too long to complete all that is needed and soon having a functioning Mexican Vihara with monks, a meditation hall, quarters for meditators, etc. The Mexican Vihara will be a refuge of peace and a excellent place where to practice the Dhamma.

All what has been done until today has been possible because of your generous support and that support is still needed to complete the noble dream of bringing the Dhamma to Mexico.

In this newsletter you will find a letter from the new CMBT president, Dr. Hilda Díaz Marroquín, with a brief report and a pledge for support. There are still many lots available for donation. Also they are requesting donations in order to buy a pick-up truck. Buying a truck will considerably reduce the total cost of construction by making them less dependent on hired transportation and will also provide transportation to the members and visitors to and from the property. If you are interested on participating in the making of the Mexican Vihara you may contact me or Venerable U Silananda at (650) 726-7604 (e-mail:

The Opening of the Mexican Vihara

After months of preparations, collecting donations and much effort from the local Mexican dhamma patrons, the Dhamma Vihara, the first Theravada vihara, was officially opened on January 30, 1999 at a place near Jalapa, Mexico. The ceremony was attended by 150 people from far and near. Among the guests were Theravada Buddhist monks and representatives from other religious and non-religious institutions. Among the attendants were Venerable U Silananda (Abbot
of Dhammananda Vihara, Half Moon Bay, CA), Venerable U Tejobhasa (Sanford, Florida), Venerable U Jotalankara (Dhammananda Vihara, Half Moon Bay, CA), Venerable Phramaha Sakchai Hongratana (Abbot Suddhavasa Buddhist Meditation Center, Riverside, CA), Venerable U Kosalla (Abbot Dhammapala Monastery), and Venerable U Nandisena (Dhammananda Vihara, Half Moon Bay, CA).

We were also honored to have many distinguished guests, among them were members of the Interreligious Council, Representatives of other Buddhist groups, from Mahayana and Theravada, professors from Mexican universities, and members of the local community. It was a joyous event for the Mexican Buddhists to participate in the opening of the very first Theravada monastery on the soil of Mexico. This opens the door to disseminate dhamma further down south to other Latin
American countries.

Some of the invited guests started arriving the day before due to the remoteness of the location. People from different parts of the Republic of Mexico, as far as Puerto Vallarta on the Pacific coast, and the City of Monterrey in the north near the border with Texas, made their effort to travel to the State of Veracruz in the Southeast.

The ceremony started around noon and at the beginning Venerable U Silananda gave the Five Precepts followed by the Three Refuges. Soon after that the members
of the Sangha chanted and blessings were given. The shrine-room, where the ceremony was being held, was completely filled with the attendants and many of them had to stay outside and follow the proceedings through the loudspeakers. It was an auspicious day for the Mexican Buddhists. The weather was very cooperative and it was nice and fair. The building that was giving shelter to all the invited monks and participants was built in a record time by a team of workers led by Manuel Murrieta. Each team member was honored by Venerable U Silananda and members of Centro Mexicano de Buddhismo Theravada (CMBT).

Some of the guests offered flowers and incense to the Buddha, others spoke words of praise of the occasion, while cameras and videos were busy trying to catch those fleeting, historical moments. Speeches were made by some of the invited guests in appreciation of the opening of Dhamma Vihara.

At about 2:00 p.m. Venerable U Silananda and CMBT President Dr. Hilda Díaz uncovered a commemorative plaque which reads (English translation-see photo):
founded under the spiritual guidance
of Venerable U Silananda
on January 30, 1999.

Wreaths of flowers were placed where the plaque was uncovered and the emotion that was contained until this moment broke in a deep applause. Later, in the presence of the monks and invited guests, a “Bodhi Tree” was planted by CMBT Treasurer Rosa María Martínez.

The culminating event took place on the top of the hill now named Buddha Giri when the Sasana and Mexican flags were hoisted. First the Sasana flag was slowly raised by Miguel Pelusi while the monks chanted Pali verses from the Buddha’s Discourses. Immediately after, Dr. Alejandro Cordova — one of the founders of CMBT–  raised the three-colored Mexican flag while all the participants sang the Mexican National anthem. When both flags where flying high in the Mexican sky, the monks proceeded to establish a Boundary (Sima), an area where monks can perform acts of Sangha such as ordinations.

It had been decided earlier at the request of some members of CMBT that the entire hill Buddha Giri, including the area where the building is located, was to be a boundary and that those interested would participate in the delimitation of the place. Such was the enthusiasm and interest to participate in this act that twenty four men and women sign up for the delimitation ceremony. Since we had to delimit only eight cardinal points (north, south, east, west, northeast, northwest, southeast and southwest) we did each of them three times to include everybody.

It is true that we have accomplished something very important and this has been possible thanks to the support, help and effort of many including you. Now we have a Theravada Buddhist Vihara in Mexico, a place to practice and study the Buddha’s Teachings. There is much to rejoice. So let us rejoice at our good deeds saying:

Sadhu! Sadhu! Sadhu!