Practicing Insight on your own
Gauging The Results Of The Practice - According to the 7 Purities (visuddhi) and 16 Knowledge (ñāna)
This book has been composed especially for the inexperienced meditator. Some meditators may, however, practise very well in the course of time; so it is necessary to have some means for measuring progress according to pariyatti-dhamma (scriptural teaching). Therefore we outline the 16 ñāna and 7 visuddhi here:
I. Sīla-visuddhi: In the beginning the meditator is first required to have sīla; that means normal behavior of body and speech. Before that nīvarana still disturb the mind; the mind is not calm because samādhi is lacking.
II. Citta-visuddhi: Momentary concentration of the meditator is more continuous. When the nīvarana calm down, the mind will be pure and steady; this will be the condition for the arising of ñāna-paññā later.
1. Nāmarūpapariccheda-ñāna - Vision is pure and ñāna-paññā distinguishes nāma and rūpa.
2. Paccayapariggaha-ñāna - Purity to go beyond doubt derived from ñāna-paññā that knows the causal relationships nāma and rūpa.
3. Sammasana-ñāna - Purity out of ñāna-paññā that knows from the practice whether it is the correct Middle Way or not by realization of the three characteristics (tilakkhana).
4. Udayabbaya-ñāna - Purity of knowledge and vision of the correct way with ñāna-paññā contemplating the arising and vanishing of nāma-rūpa.
5. Bhanga-ñāna - ñāna contemplating the dissolution of nāma-rūpa.
6. Bhaya-ñāna - ñāna contemplating nāma-rūpa as fearful, terrible things.
7. ādīnava-ñāna - ñāna contemplating the oppressive and harmful nature of nāma and rūpa.
8. Nibbidā-ñāna - ñāna contemplating nāma and rūpa with weariness.
9. Muccitu-kamyatā-ñāna - ñāna, knowledge, wishing to go beyond and get rid of nāma-rūpa.
10. Patisankhā-ñāna - ñāna contemplating nāma-rūpa for the sake of reaching higher ñāna.
11. Sankhārupekkhā-ñāna - ñāna contemplating nāma-rūpa with equanimity.
Vutthānagāminī Vipassanā - ñāna contemplating one of the three marks anicca, dukkha, anattā.
12. Anuloma-ñāna - ñāna contemplating according to the Four Noble Truth.
13. Gotrabhū-ñāna - knowledge changing lineage from lokiya-citta to lokuttara-citta.
14. Magga-ñāna- Purity of knowledge and Vision when the magga-ñāna arises.
15. Phala-ñāna - ñāna of the Fruit-consciousness arises having Nibbāna as object.
16. Paccavekkhana-ñāna - ñāna that examines, how much kilesa is left. This ñāna is lokiya-ñāna, it is not included in ñānadassana-visuddhi.
There are many dhamma that may be employed as a means for gauging the results of the dhamma practice, such as the 37 bodhipakkiya-dhamma, 7 visuddhi, 16 ñāna, 4 ariya-sacca; on the akusala side there are 4 āsava, 4 ogha, 4 yoga, 4 gantha, 4 upādāna, 5 nīvarana, 7 anusaya and 10 kilesa.
Those who know these dhamma can apply them all as a gauge for the practice of vipassanā-kammatthāna.
Q: The 7 visuddhi and the 16 ñāna have some differing characteristics; for instance; the 16 ñāna don't mention sīla but the 7 visuddhi do. How is this?
A: The 7 visuddhi have characteristics like the Eightfold Path. That means, they speak of sīla, samādhi, paññā; this is the practice by way of the three sikkhā (threefold training). In particular the 7 visuddhi are spoken of in terms of successive stages. At first one must establish sīla-visuddhi; this will be the condition to reach citta-visuddhi. When citta-visuddhi has been established, then paññā-visuddhi will arise step by step, beginning from ditthi-visuddhi up to ñānadassana-visuddhi; so there are 5 visuddhi summarized as the gradual development of paññā-visuddhi, they are all a part of paññā.
However that may be, in the practice of the Middle Way, sīla, samādhi, and paññā actually always arise together.
Q: If this book is used as a handbook for the practice, how will the meditator know whether the first ñāna has already appeared?
A: It is difficult to speak about the subject of ñāna-paññā because it is paccattam, that means, the meditator actually knows and sees for himself. Those who have studied much pariyatti (the scriptures) are well-learned. Some of them may be able to know. Those people who don't know will have to depend on the kalyānamitta (spiritual friend) or vipassanā teacher to give guidance or inquire frequently about the experiences of the practitioner; that will suffice to tell whether the meditator has; developed ñāna.
Q: What are the characteristics of the 1st ñāna? Please explain sufficiently for individual comparison.
A: I will answer adequately in outline. In the beginning of the practice, the mind is not yet calm because one is disturbed by reflection and agitation. Only when noting the Rising - Falling of the abdomen becomes more continuous will the Rising rūpa (matter) and the Falling rūpa gradually appear more distinct. The mind noting the Rising and Falling will recognize that it has the function of knowing the Rising and Falling.
Sometimes one will see that even the Rising matter and the Falling matter are not the same material thing. The Rising rūpa has one characteristic and the Falling rūpa has another characteristic. If the meditator understands and sees this, it is called rūpa-pariccheda-ñāna (discrimination of matter).
Later, when the samādhi of the meditator has more power the mind is calm and notes the Rising-Falling continuously throughout. Then one will understand that the Rising matter and the one who notes it are different from each other; the Falling matter and the one who notes it are not identical. The 'Rising' and 'Falling' are rūpa; the one who notes is nāma. When the meditator understands and sees this as it really is by noting the Rising and Falling of the abdomen when they are present, then he has reached the 1st ñāna or nāma-rūpa-pariccheda-ñāna (knowledge of the discrimination of mind and matter).
In the interview the meditation teacher will ask the meditator whether the Rising and the noting of the Rising are the same thing or different. If the meditator says that they are identical, it means that he has not yet reached the 1 ñāna. If the meditator speaks about his experience of his own accord, or when questioned by the vipassanā teacher he tells just as he understands and sees for himself: the Rising is rūpa and the one who notes is nāma, they ate different, and when the Rising arises the noting mind runs towards it; or, when noting the Rising it is as if they appear together, but when the Falling is noted, then the Falling rūpa is not the same thing as the Rising rūpa: this ñāna is being aware of rūpa-nāma, and it also abandons sakkāya-ditthi, the wrong view which holds that there is a self.
Q: What are the characteristics of the 2nd ñāna? Please explain this also.
A: This ñāna is paññā (wisdom) being aware of causes. When we have a result arising, which cause does it come from? The meditator who has already gone through the 1st ñāna will find that, at the moment when he is noting the present object, he sees that there are only rūpa and nāma; nothing else can be found. Sometimes the Rising, which is rūpa appears first; citta, which is nāma, follows to note it. When sound appears first the noting mind follows as 'hearing, hearing'. Or when heat contacts the body the mental note follows: 'hot, hot'.
After a long time of practising like this, the meditator will understand: rūpa arises first, rūpa is the cause. When the noting mind follows, then the mind is the effect.
Sometimes he wishes to stand up. When the mind has noted this, the standing rūpa appears; the mind desires to walk then the walking rūpa appears; the mind wishes to sit the sitting posture appears; the mind desires to lie down the lying body appears. Or the mind wishes to bend, to stretch, to take, to lift, to hold, to catch, to touch, and then the bending, stretching, taking, lifting, holding, catching, touching body arises and one realizes, the nāma that arises first is the cause, rūpa arising afterwards is the result.
If the meditator has right view by reason of contemplating rūpa-nāma, it means he has reached the 2nd ñāna, paccayapariggaha-ñāna (knowledge penetrating conditionality).
This ñāna understands that there is no creator; the occurrence of this life springs from nāma as the cause and rūpa as the result, or rūpa is the cause and nāma the effect. There is no being, no person, no self, no we, or they; there is nothing but rūpa and nāma mutually conditioned and related to one another. This ñāna dispels doubts such as: What is this life? Where does is come from? Where is it going to? - When one understands the present then one has the ability to investigate the past and the future as they really are. This ñāna is the complete abandonment of vicikicchā (skeptical doubt).
Q: What are the characteristics of the 3rd ñāna? Please explain!
A: When sati-samādhi of the meditator are stronger, the contemplation of Rising-Falling is more distinct. The principles for examining the contemplation are:
1st ñāna: The meditator noting the Rising matter will see the middle portion of the Rising because it is more apparent than the other portions.
2nd ñāna: The meditator noting the Rising matter will note the beginning of the Rising and the middle portion; that means, sati has become stronger.
3rd ñāna: The meditator noting the Rising matter will contemplate the beginning, the middle, and the end of the Rising, all three portions; this is so because sati and samādhi are more powerful.
In this ñāna the phenomena of pīti will arise. For instance: At the moment of contemplation the hairs of the body will stand on end, giving a tingling sensation; nimitta and various pictures arise; jerking or dropping backwards occurs, there is itching, the sensation of ants crawling, and sudden pain like mosquito or ant bites. One must always note these; in noting these nimitta and pictures one will find that they momentarily disappear or finally disappear slowly.
Sometimes when sitting and noting there will be heavy dukkha-vedanā; such as pain in the knees, the legs, the back, the waist, or in any other part of the body. Having strong violent dukkha-vedanā like this shows the three characteristics, so that paññā (Wisdom) becomes manifest. It demonstrates the truth that this rūpa-nāma is not lasting it is suffering and not self, it is uncontrollable and unmanageable. Because of impermanence dukkha-vedanā arises; when it has arisen it is dukkha, unbearable, and anattā: It is impossible to force it to be anything else. It arises owing to conditions which carry the cause and effect in themselves. This ñāna understands the three characteristics.
Sometimes, if the meditator has much samādhi and pīti a lot of objects and phenomena will occur, or ñāna-paññā arises and stimulates thinking about dhamma. There may be light, effulgence, or much happiness. One will misunderstand this and think that, one has already achieved the higher magga-phala. Clinging and sticking to these phenomena is vipassanūpakkilesa, or it is called 'going the wrong way', since one still clings to the objects of rūpa-nāma. The right way is the Middle Way or the way of satipatthāna (application of mindfulness), which is the Only Way to the realization of Nibbāna. Being misled by the phenomena of samādhi and pīti which are still rūpa-nāma objects this is losing the way.
In the 7 visuddhi it is shown that maggāmagga-ñāna-dassana-visuddhi is the purity that knows whether it is the Path or not the Path. When receiving the advice of the kalyāna-mitta that whatever arises one must note that immediately, and not cling to anything at all, one must not be deluded and still cling when reaching this stage; if the meditator has right understanding the contemplation will progress further. When the meditator applies energy in noting the mental objects, the various nimitta and pictures will gradually disappear. The meditator has then reached the 3rd ñāna, sammasana-ñāna (knowledge of comprehension). This ñāna is knowledge that is aware of the three characteristics (tilakkhana).
Q: When the practice has come to this stage, what are the additional kammatthāna (main objects) for the sitting and walking meditation?
A: According to the principles of general practice it is thus:
1st ñāna: When sitting, note 'Rising - Falling'. When walking, note 'Right goes thus, left goes thus', Continue for 30 minutes.
2nd ñāna: When sitting note 'Rising - Falling - Sitting'. When walking, note 'Lifting the foot - placing the foot' (2nd step).
3rd ñāna: When sitting, note 'Rising - Falling - sitting - touching'. When walking, note 'lifting the foot - moving forward - placing the foot' (3rd step).
4th ñāna: When sitting, the noting is the same as for the 3rd ñāna; but sometimes one may note both buttocks, alternating right and left until the next Rising occurs. When walking, note 4 steps, 'Lifting the heel - raising the foot - moving forward - placing the foot'.
Q: What is the use of noting the intention? When shall we apply mindfulness to it?
A: Noting the intending mind is the practice for vigilance. It implies that when thinking, speaking, and acting, one must be mindful to supervise or constantly be aware of oneself. What are you doing at this moment? This practice should be introduced when the meditator has trained for about seven days; or, when the 2nd ñāna has cone up then note the intending mind as 'intending, intending' when it arises. One will know the cause and see the effect and make sure whether it is a fact that this mind actually commands the body or not.
Q: What are the characteristics of the 4th ñāna? And is this ñāna genuine vipassanā-ñāna?
A: This ñāna is called udayabbaya-ñāna (knowledge of arising and vanishing). It is divided into a weak and a strong stage. The weak stage is called taruna udayabbaya-ñāna (tender insight-knowledge); the strong stage is called balava udayabbaya-ñāna. At the time when the meditator has reached the tender insight-knowledge, the objects of vipassanūpakkilesa will arise and be quite powerful. These are:
1. Obhāsa, that means light or effulgence. It is pale white light, or it may be a beam of streaming light like a flashlight, or a light which fills the whole room.
2. Pīti, zest or rapture; there are 5 kinds of pīti:
a) Khuddaka-pīti (minor rapture); sometimes one experiences itching or tingling all over the body like goose-skin.
b) Khanika-pīti (momentary rapture); tingling which moves from the feet on the chest and the windpipe and then vanishes. Sometimes one feels warmth or coolness, which for instance starts at the head.
c) Okkantika-pīti (flooding rapture); it may spread throughout the body.
d) Ubbegapīti (transporting rapture); sometimes the meditator may say his body becomes light and floats above the ground 20 or 50 cm; sometimes, at the time of sitting it feels as if someone came to push him or bend him down; sometimes it is as if someone were turning his head back and forth or the like.
e) Pharana-pīti (suffusing rapture); perhaps he feels that he doesn't know what his experience in the body is like; comfortable coolness pervades the whole body in a way that is inexpressible; sometimes one does not wish to get up again.
3. Passaddhi (tranquillity); some say that they feel comfortably cool and content in the body; perhaps one feels calm and utterly refreshed in the chest; body and mind are very happy and satisfied; some people say this body is light and adroit.
4. Sukha (happiness, bliss); some people say they feel very easy and fresh in the heart, in the mind; now that they have encountered this; they feel that they have never before found such happiness anywhere since their birth. Sometimes only the clear, spotless citta (mind) remains and they note: 'clear, clear..!'
5. Adhimokkha, that means saddhā or faith; some people get strong confidence; they adore the teacher very much, wish to see the teacher's face and have high esteem for the teacher; they must note: 'confident..', 'respecting..'; sometimes they start thinking about their parents and relatives, they feel like preaching to them and wish to persuade them to practise meditation; they must note: 'thinking, thinking..'.
6. Paggāha, this is viriya (energy, exertion); some say that in the beginning, although the teacher inspired them to raise energy, it was very difficult for them, they felt very exhausted; they claim they had the determination to get somewhere and practised until they nearly died, the teacher had to encourage them continuously to give it another try. But now, these thoughts have completely disappeared; they have extraordinary diligence; they are astonished at themselves, wondering: 'Is it really me or who? Why is there abundant energy?' They feel they will never tire of practising.
7. Upatthāna, this is sati, some of the people say that they can note everything, even the minor movements, some say that something compels them to note, or they state that noting is difficult, but they have developed such skillfulness at it that they are astonished at themselves.
8. Ñāna (knowledge); some people say that, in the past, in order to know anything, they had to concentrate on it many times; but now they feel that they have extraordinary knowledge; especially the 5 rūpa-nāma-kkhandha they know them very accurately and thoroughly.
9. Upekkhā (equanimity); before this, they reflected and pondered over the subject of anicca, dukkha, anattā but they could not understand then clearly. At this time, however, they see very clear that the beginning, the middle, and the end portions of the occurring phenomena are all of them the three characteristic. Sometimes they feel uninterested until they don't care any more about things. Sometimes they think they have no more kilesa.
Obhāsa, pīti, passaddhi, viriya, sukha, saddhā, sati, ñāna and upekkhā become vipassanūpakkilesa because of nikanti, which is the tenth. It is satisfaction, being engrossed by the objects, enjoying them with gratification and being deluded by them, then these phenomena become obstacles to vipassanā.
But when hearing the instruction of the vipassanā teacher that they should not cling and become attached to these objects, then they must establish mindfulness in the present, so that they see the arising and vanishing of these objects. At the time when insight is still the taruna udayabbaya-ñāna, the nimitta-pictures and phenomena will, after noting them, fade away slowly or disappear moment by moment. But when insight has changed to balava udayabbaya-ñāna one notes the phenomena and they disappear immediately. One will realize the arising and vanishing very perspicuously.
The Supreme Teacher said of the people who have truly reached this ñāna, that they have not wasted their present life, they don't fall into bad destiny. The meaning is: They don't go down to apāya (miserable existence) after death. This ñāna is genuine vipassanā-ñāna which will proceed to higher stages afterwards.
Q: What are the characteristics of the 5th ñāna? Please explain so that one understands.
A: When the meditator has found balance in the 5 indriya, sati will note the present objects more skillfully; it will perceive the arising and vanishing of rūpa-nāma as it really is. What happens next is that the noting of the objects becomes speeded up. Even the Rising and Falling of the abdomen arise and vanish quicker. Later one will see only vanishing, vanishing and the velocity of the objects; sometimes one has to note 'knowing, knowing' so as not to get stuck. Some people feel that the objects noted are not clear, or sometimes it is noted and gone; both the object and the one who notes it disappear. While practising walking meditation the experience will be like sudden flashes; that means, it is just noted and already vanished. At times, when sitting one feels empty in the body; it happens that one does not know what to note. Sometimes one is discouraged because the objects used to be clear but now they are not clear any more; they are barely noted and then vanish. One feels it is difficult to contemplate the vanishing objects disappearing at breakneck speed; or one cannot note clearly since what is noted is disappearing, vanishing. This is called: the meditator has reached bhanga-ñāna (knowledge of dissolution).
Q: What are the characteristics of the 6th ñāna?
A: Wen reaching bhaya-ñāna (knowledge of fear), the objects noted and the noting mind stick together; they always vanish together, every time the object and the mind disappear until one feels frightened. This fear is not fear of a ghost, a demon, man or animal, or some weapon; one is frightened but cannot tell of what. Some people note the couplet of rūpa-nāma always disappearing together, vanishing together; every time fear gets stronger. Some people are contemplating and when samādhi gets strong, the body disappears and they are frightened. The characteristic of bhaya-ñāna stems from the dissolution seen at first in the stage of bhanga-ñāna, which is the condition for bhaya-ñāna.
Q: What are the characteristics of the 7th ñāna?
A: When this ñāna arises, the meditator will feel that whatever he notes is no good altogether; even the phenomena of Rising and Falling that become apparent are felt to be no good, they are dukkha, affliction. One feels it would be better if there were nothing to be noted any more. The six kinds of objects of the senses, or sankhārā, which present themselves are altogether no good, useless. This is ādīnava-ñāna (knowledge of misery).
Q: What are the characteristics of the 8th ñāna?
A: Some meditators will say they can note well although they feel desolate and weary, as if lazy, but they still go on contemplating. Some people can note well but their mind is not joyful. Some understand that all phenomena that they see are altogether disgusting. Some people contemplate and get bored and don't want to speak to anybody; they only want to stay in their rooms. Some may think about the 31 planes of existence and find that even the worlds of men, devas, and brahmas are not satisfying but they all represent boredom. The emergence of boredom from the contemplation of rūpa-nāma develops gradually starting from udayabbaya-ñāna until the 8th ñāna, nibbidā-ñāna, arises; that is knowledge contemplating rūpa-nāma with boredom or disgust.
Q: What are the characteristics of the 9th ñāna?
A: When the meditator carries on the contemplation he will experience sensation of mosquito bites or ant bites or as if insects were crawling over the body. Some people cannot remain sitting; they are restless, one moment they wish to sit the next moment they wish to stand up, just as if they were about to go away. Some people think that, within the 31 planes of existence, nothing good can be seen whatever. The mind desires to reach cessation, Nibbāna; the mind desires to become calm and still.
Some people feel fed up with it all, they don't want to note any more; some even pack their belongings and wish to run away. The sankhāra-objects (conditioned phenomena), every time they are noted, every time they are considered, are found to be vanishing and falling apart, so that they are not enjoyable, not satisfying. The meditator wants to get rid of them to escape from sankhārā, and they do not wish to cling to them. Ñāna that understands and sees like this, is called muccitu-kamyatā-ñāna (knowledge of desire for deliverance).
Q: What are the characteristics of the 10th ñāna?
A: Some meditators will say the objects that are noted can be found but they always disappear, they vanish so swiftly; one cannot find anything firm enduring or substantial; therefore one meets only phenomena of the nature of tilakkhana, which become apparent with ever increasing perspicuity.
When they are contemplating, some people feel that the hands and feet are heavy and vibrating at the same time. Some people have a slight itching sensation; later they feel that the body, the hands and feet are tense and heavy. Some people hear buzzing, soughing sounds in the ears; when hearing this some feel annoyed; they wish to escape from that sound. When noting the Rising and Falling, some feel that both of them arise and vanish moment by moment; maybe they feel oppressed in the chest. This ñāna is the start to try and aim at higher ñāna. It is the desire for Nibbāna, the dhamma which can extinguish the flames of dukkha. The experiences of a meditator mentioned here are the signs of patisankhā-ñāna (knowledge of re-observation).
Q: What are the characteristics of the 11th ñāna?
A: The meditator will say that he cannot tell whether the contemplation is good at all. Contemplating feels lighter and swifter; sitting and lying one can keep on contemplating with ease without having to make a great effort at it. It is like a good road and a good car, so that the driver need not be very careful. Some people say they sit an amazing long time but they don't have any dukkha-vedanā. Whatever sitting posture they assume they feel comfortable in it. The noting is also going well; they don't have to direct the mind but merely establish mindfulness to be aware and that will take care of it, at this time the mind does not reflect about anything, sometimes they want to think but the mind does not do it; it stays only with the Rising-Falling, not going anywhere else. Before that the mind moved about to note touching sensations here and there; now it doesn't go anywhere but stays with the Rising-Falling alone, whilst these phenomena become more subtle and also with other phenomena it is the same thing, they become increasingly smooth and subtle, no matter how fine they are, still the mind can always note them.
6 Qualities of Sankhārupekkhā-ñāna
1. In regard to any object, there is no fear, no satisfaction, no exultation at all.
2. There is no over-exertion or too much ambition, this is also good.
3. There is no more trouble or difficulty, such as dukkha-vedanā.
4. The frequent changes of posture cease; one can keep to one posture for a long time.
5. The mind does not hurry to many places it stays with one single object; it does not move over to different objects but remains calm at the original place.
6. The objects and the noting mind become increasingly subtle.
If the meditator has developed these qualities and he has practised continuously in succession from the arising of nāma-rūpa-pariccheda-ñāna until he had reached the strong udayabbaya-ñāna through the process that has already been described then it is certain that this practitioner has now entered sankhārupekkhā-ñāna (knowledge of equanimity about sankhāra, (mental and material events).
When sankhārupekkhā-ñāna first arises, however, its characteristics are not conspicuous. It must be developed until upekkhā (equanimity) becomes firmly established. For some meditators this may take time and persistent effort because the strength of the contemplation varies with different people.
That means: Perception of the rise and fall has been building up gradually since the time of udayabbaya-ñāna. When the meditator has reached sankhārupekkhā-ñāna, sati has much power in contemplating rūpa-nāma and perceives the rise and fall all the time if sankhārupekkhā-ñāna has much strength and this strength has been accumulated since the time of udayabbaya-ñāna, then the development will go on easily. But some people may experience lapses from sankhārupekkhā because they entered the stages of vipassanā-ñāna, beginning from udayabbaya-ñāna, with less drive. Then the development of samādhi will be slow and the stages of ñāna will not manifest in a clear-cut way. When they reach sankhārupekkhā they may lose it again and again, falling back to the 9th or 10th ñāna several times. This can be illustrated by the following story: