Practicing Insight on your own
The Method Of Adjusting The 5 Indriya Evenly
Q: Some people say that, if the 5 indriya (mental faculties) are not equal, the practice will not progress. Why is that so?
A: While the four satipatthāna are being developed, the five categories of dhamma which are indriya, such as saddhā, viriya, sati, samādhi, paññā, (faith, energy, mindfulness, concentration, wisdom), always arise together in the mind because they are species of dhamma belonging to the Eightfold Path. But in some moments they do not arise simultaneously. These five indriya can be separated into two essential pairs: saddhā and paññā form one pair, viriya and paññā make up the second pair. As regards sati, it has the function to co-ordinate the indriya in these two pairs.
This can be compared with a chariot having four horses yoked together and a coachman who has the function to supervise all four horses so that they run evenly. If any horse goes ahead or runs too fast, he must pull the reins to co-ordinate it with the other three horses. If any horse runs slower, the reins will slacken. The coachman will then use the whip to make it run equal with the others. The coachman must work very hard and he must be careful all the time to keep the four horses running evenly all the time. When all four horses run equally the chariot will run straight and speed up the whole team. If the control is not good, it will make the horses as well as the chariot shake or swing to and fro. They will not run the straight way; the chariot will slow down and control is difficult. This waste of energy will make the chariot reach the destination very slowly.
In the same way, if the five indriya are not balanced, sati must work very hard by noting in order to arrange the five indriya equally.
The inequality of saddhā and paññā may be known in the following way. When the mind is calm, the manifestations of samādhi, such as light, colour or nimitta-images may arise in the mind. But the meditator who doesn't note with mindfulness will turn back to look at them with satisfaction; or sometimes he notes them all the same, but he doesn't note them in order to let them go. The more he notes, the clearer become the images; on noting they do not disappear. If this is the case, then saddhā is in excess of paññā. Clinging to any object or believing that things are real which in fact are not real, this is called 'saddhā exceeds paññā.'
When the meditator receives advice from the vipassanā teacher that any object which comes up in the mind must be noted immediately, that he should not stick to these objects and the meditator has understanding, he will simply apply mindfulness and note the nimitta light, colour, various pictures as 'seeing, seeing' until these objects disappear; or if they arise again, he will be able to see the arising and vanishing of these objects. This is the balancing of indriya to make 'saddhā equal to paññā.'
Some meditators have paññā in excess of saddhā from studying and learning the Pāli Abhidhamma. They have listened to learned persons or studied by themselves. When they take up meditation practice, sometimes one or the other objects or sabhāvā arise. They are given to thinking and reflecting that, 'this is a sabhāvā-dhamma of such and such a name'.
When they go on thinking or reflecting, the mind will become even more restless. There are also people who think so much that they cannot sleep any more. This makes the nerves overtaxed and the body exhausted. Such intense thinking about Dhamma is cintā-maya-paññā which means paññā arising from thinking. Some people have learned a lot, therefore the think even more extensively. Some people have māna (conceit) they think they are better, then they become such people who do not believe anybody, not even their own teacher, this is the cause of 'excess of paññā over saddhā'.
The method of treatment for such practitioners is that they must note the thinking as 'thinking, thinking'. If they have the impression to think correctly, they should note 'thinking right, thinking right' until the restless, agitated thinking gradually wears away. In this stage the vipassanā teacher must admonish and comfort the practitioner, explaining that these sabhāvā or experiences which arise are only manifestations of rūpa-nāma and they are still phenomena merely of the basic stage.
One should not cling at all.
The teacher should give examples like this:
A man is searching for a diamond of unique water. He knows that the diamond is on the top of a mountain. When he reaches the foot of the mountain he sees stones of various shades of colour and light. He mistakes them for real diamonds; dazzled and allured he collects the colorful stones at the foot of the mountain. He will not get the real Diamond because of his own misunderstanding.
In the same way the meditator sets his mind on the object of Nibbāna but he meets the rūpa-nāma-objects. Wrong understanding arises and he clings to his own thinking. When the meditator receives advice that this rūpa-nāma is impermanent, oppressive, and not self, that not even his thinking is permanent, then he must establish mindfulness to note only this present object. Practising by thinking is 'THINKING MEDITATION'; but practising with mindfulness noting the present object is called vipassanā. When the meditator establishes mindfulness to note the thinking as 'thinking, thinking' until that thinking disappears, then 'paññā will be equal with samādhi'.
The pair of viriya and samādhi are indriya that are most vital in the course of practice. For if these two indriya are not equal they will cause the practice to stagnate. If viriya (energy) outweighs samādhi the mind of the meditator will vacillate, thinking about past and future events or restlessly thinking nonsense and insubstantial trivial things. Or he has desire to reap the results of practising the dhamma; he wishes for something to happen and is desirous to see this and that. The mind having these sabhāvā is not a tranquil mind, samādhi is lacking. This is called 'viriya exceeds samādhi'.
The method for balancing these indriya is that one should make samādhi increase. The method for uplifting samādhi must be practised correctly, intensifying samādhi in the walking posture by walking very slowly. Out of the 6 stages in the walking meditation the 4th, 5th and 6th steps are applied in order to increase samādhi. Walk very slowly and let sati follow up carefully each and every phase of the steps, from 'lifting the heel' to 'placing the foot'. Momentary concentration which arises at every moment will gain continuous and increasing power.
It will make the mind tranquil and remain firmly fixed to that object. Although walking ordinarily is the posture to increase viriya, still one can so walk as to make samādhi arise.
The intensification of samādhi in the sitting posture:
Samādhi-being absent in the sitting posture may have a number of specific causes, for instance: The meditator tends to think and reflect restlessly; the meditator cannot note the present object which is not distinct enough to be identified; there is dukkha-vedanā, such as pain in the knees, the legs, the waist, the shoulders, or the back; he feels tense which makes the mind vacillate. Kilesa-nīvarana disturb him a lot. To intensify samādhi one should first of all fix the mind resolutely on the main object (Rising-Falling) so that it is noted well. During 30 minutes one should fix mindfulness on noting continuously with attentiveness. Be at ease and don't force yourself too much. When thinking arises it must be noted right away, regarding it as an obstacle for samādhi that keeps the mind from getting calm. When the mind gets calm the objects will be distinct which makes noting easy. The contemplation will then be in the present. When the mind becomes calm and steady in the practice, the pain in the body will also be reduced. When samādhi grows stronger the mind is tranquil and 'samādhi is even with viriya.
When samādhi is stronger than viriya, it will make this calm mind change. The mind can easily drop into the bhavanga state; the mind will become inert and floating. When sati loses power the mind becomes forgetful and will not be able to note the present. Sometimes when the mind is inactive it cannot receive the objects; the mind will little by little change from indolence to be drowsy and dazed and can then easily drop into bhavanga (fully asleep). Sometimes the mind will be half asleep even at the time of walking. When practising one may sometimes stagger, or stumble, or topple over backwards, etc. Such things are called 'samādhi exceeds viriya'.
In order to balance the indriya one must increase viriya by doing more walking than sitting. For instance when usually sitting 30 minutes and walking 30 minutes one should now extend walking to 40 or 50 minutes. Some people may walk one hour and sit 30 minutes. For the walking one should use the earlier steps, such as the 1st, 2nd, 3rd steps; the walking should be done a bit faster than is usual. To activate the body so that the mind is more alert, some meditators who walk the 4th, 5th, 6th steps should come back to walk earlier steps first. The more they walk the first step the better.
In regard to the sitting practice they must apply the method as required. For example: The mind is inactive and drifting, then note 'Rising -Falling - sitting - touching'... or add more touching-spots, from the right buttock go to the left, or add the right ankle and note three spots; and then include the left ankle too; it will depend on the speed of Rising-Falling. You should be noting continuously these objects in turn. This kind of noting will make the mind alert and agile. Viriya in the sitting posture will increase until 'viriya is equal to samādhi'. Drowsiness and sloth, will gradually be relieved and finally disappear.
As regards 'sati': The more there is the better! For sati is a quality that brings along the group of kusala-dhamma (wholesome mental forces). It is the quality of control which equalizes the indriya in both pairs by noting rūpa-nāma right in the present. If sati is developed until it arises together with mind at each and every moment without fail then the quality of sati will be indriya which possesses this characteristic on a large scale. It will realize the arising and vanishing of any object clearly.
When saddhā for instance exceeds paññā and the mind starts to grasp at nimitta and various pictures, sati will make a note of these objects at the very first instant as 'seeing, seeing' and the objects arising from samādhi, such as nimitta or images will immediately vanish; they appear again, are noted and vanish again. This is how saddhā and paññā are made even.
Or, when there is reflecting about Dhamma, considering and evaluating when sabhāvā or strange phenomena have arisen, then the mind gets involved and clings to such thinking which in turn causes undue agitation, about Dhamma; this is called 'paññā exceeds saddhā'. Sati must work hard until sati arises as fast as the thinking. Then thinking will cease; paññā and saddhā are equal, relying on sati as the one who supervises ever so closely.
It is the same thing with viriya and samādhi. When viriya outweighs samādhi and reflecting or being agitated gets too much, sati will have to note to make that thinking disappear. It will slow down viriya to balance with samādhi.
Or, samādhi is too much, drowsiness and dejection arise; sati must work hard at noting to catch the very moment drowsiness arises, then drowsiness will fall away. This will bring samādhi in proportion to viriya and in return promote further progress of the practice.
In balancing the 5 indriya the meditator must apply the ingenious method and keep observing the result of the practice and check whether the redressed outcome is correct or compatible with oneself or not. Since the minds of people are not the same the individual dispositions are accordingly different. The accumulations of goodness and badness are also not the same. Therefore, one should live up to the motto:
ONESELF IS ONE'S OWN REFUGE!
However, everybody must develop sati to make it gradually more powerful. Any increase will be that much more profit for such a person. When saddhā, viriya, samādhi, paññā work impending each other or they have too little or too much power, then inequality arises. The application of sati which is already well-developed has the ability to control the balance of the indriya in both pairs. Those indriya that used to hamper one another will unite; those being disproportionate will come back to a balance until the 5 indriya combine into one. This will make for expert contemplation of the present; and that is the cause of arising for paññā to realize the five rūpa-nāma-kkhandha according to reality as impermanent, oppressive, and not self (anicca, dukkha, anattā).
Rūpa and nāma arise and vanish naturally. The rūpa-nāma-object display the truth all the time. There is nothing at all that one ought to grasp and cling to. One gains determination to practise without discouragement, bound for the dhamma which ends dukkha; this means: Nibbāna.