Practicing Insight on your own

Practising for the Extinction of Kilesa-tanhā


Q: What should one do so as to eradicate kilesa-tanhā which is the cause of dukkha?

A: Kilesa-tanhā can be compared with fire. Fire will flare up when there is a cause; for example, it springs from a match, from electricity or a cigarette butt. Fire when it appears for the first time is a small extent of fire or a tiny little fire. To stifle it is surely not difficult. You can blow it out with your mouth or stamp on it with your foot, then it will be extinguished. But if that fire has much fuel and burns for a longer time then it is a big blaze. So it is difficult or even impossible to extinguish it. The same is true of the fire of kilesa-tanhā which burns in our minds. As a tiny little fire when it springs up for the first time, if we know it quickly we can easily stifle it, if we know it slowly it is difficult to extinguish because the fire burning inside has already spread to the outside.


In order to put out the fire one must have the right equipment to extinguish or a course that is correct and suitable for the extinction of fire. Water is something one can use to put out fire. The Eightfold Path or the four satipatthāna which are the Single Way are the items to be put into practice or made to work to extinguish kilesa-tanhā or the fire.


So we must examine ourselves, whether we have water to put out the fire or not. If we don't have it yet, we must hurry and get it; because the fire of kilesa-tanhā is burning ourselves; we have to put it out this very day; we cannot wait until tomorrow!


Develop sati that has not yet arisen so that it arises!

Try to make more of sati that has already arisen!


Generally, our mind always treats tanhā as an intimate friend, because tanhā is the stock we have accumulated unknowingly, our old habits which arise automatically and desire beautiful sights, melodious sounds, fragrant aromas, delicious tastes and gentle touch-contacts all the time. Putting out the fire at the very first instant is difficult to do, "because there is only a little water". You must be energetic in developing water, that means sati, lots of it and quickly!


As soon as the water has risen a bit sati will support sīla, with the development of indriya-samvara-sīla (guarding the senses), so that purity does not deteriorate and remains unblemished; this means, carefully keeping watch over the eyes, the ears, the nose, the tongue, the body and the mind by applying mindfulness to the four foundations, not being pleased or displeased as they come into contact with sights, sounds, smells, tastes, touch and mental objects. This manner of practising will at once calm down the coarse kilesa.


When the development of sati becomes more efficient, one will be able to realize that when there is no desire in the mind one knows there is no desire; when there is desire one knows that there is; when desire stays in the mind one knows it stays there; when the desire disappears one knows that it has disappeared. When the strength of sati increases until it is able to contemplate the mind and see that, desire arises, stays, and vanishes in the mind in this way, then the medium kilesa, the nīvarana-kilesa, will become few and far between; they do not season the mind until they change into the coarse kilesa later on.


The meditator who has unshakable conviction that he must expel kilesa, the machinery of sorrow, once and for all, must go on developing sati further without giving up. When ñāna-paññā of the Path factors arises, he will as a matter of fact arrive at the truth that, whatever has the nature of arising naturally, as a matter of fact ceases naturally. Penetrating the truth of Nature, that is the 5 rūpa-nāma-kkhandha, means knowing this body is not lasting, it arises, stays, vanishes.- Also the nāma element, consisting of citta and cetasika or sankhāra (mind and mental forces), arises, stays, and vanishes in the same way.


To make it easier to understand, take a look at people, for example: rich people have to die, poor people have to die, good people have to die, bad people have to die, powerful people have to die, powerless people have to die, beautiful people have to die, ugly people have to die; human beings just the same as animal beings arise, stay, and die away. All things without exception that have arisen as a matter of fact vanish naturally.


When we know truth like this, then the eradication of āsava-kilesa (worldly bias and defilement) will be easier with the furthering of the development of sati with patience or persistence, so that all kusala-dhamma (wholesome forces) arise together with sati increasing their power step by step. The Eightfold Path which is being developed will then change from lokiya-magga (vipassanā, practice) to lokuttara-magga (transcendent discernment) with cause and result automatically within the essence of Nature itself. For the transcendent dhamma is akāliko, outside of time; whenever the cause is complete, then the result is bound to arise at the same time.


The four ariyapuggala (Noble persons) are divided, according to the ability to eradicate defilements by applying the ten samyojana (fetters) as the means for estimating, as follows:

1) Sotāpanna cuts off sakkāya-ditthi, the opinion to have a self; vicikicchā doubt; sīlabbataparāmāsa, clinging to virtue and rituals, groping for them in the way of rites.

2) Sakadāgāmī cuts the samyojana of the preceding stage and has weakened kāmarāga and vyāpāda.

3) Anāgāmī cuts the five lower samyojana, that is sakkāya-ditthi, vicikicchā, sīlabbataparāmāsa, kāmarāga, and vyāpāda (anger) completely.

4) Arahat cuts off the whole ten fetters; the five lower samyojana and additionally the fetters of rūparāga, arūparāga, māna, uddhacca, and avijjā completely.


To make it easily comprehensible:


According to the law of cause and effect in the eradication of kilesa, developing sati until ñāna-paññā emerges to see the 5 rūpa-nāma-kkhandha arising and vanishing as they really are one will find that, all kilesa-tanhā resides merely in the 5 rūpa-nāma-kkhandha! Having developed sati in successive stages correctly, one will see the truth according to the 4 ariya-sacca, that when the Path is developed to know dukkha, it cuts off samudaya and then nirodha is realized, because the idea wins acceptance that whatever rūpa-nāma-kkhandha there are, all of them dukkha-sacca (the Fact of Suffering). No matter whether these rūpa-nāma be kusala (of the good sort) or akusala (of the bad sort), they arise and cease all of them. Develop sati-paññā for the sake of realizing the truth and then let go! The part of discernment is magga, the letting go is nirodha. When dukkha and samudaya (the Cause) are contemplated by sati then ñāna-paññā discerns clearly that there is nothing else but dukkha (rūpa-nāma-kkhandha) arising and vanishing. Except dukkha (rūpa-nāma-kkhandha) you don't find anything arising and vanishing.


Therefore, developing sati for the new meditator amounts to getting acquainted gradually with the stages of the four Mahāsatipatthāna as follows:


1. Sati contemplates the body in the body; rūpa is matter, easy to know, such as Rising - Falling of the abdomen; consequently arising and vanishing is easy to see.


2. Sati contemplates feeling in feeling; bodily feeling (kāya-vedanā) is the matter to be known first. For instance: Bodily sickness arises, this is dukkha-vedanā. When the meditator keeps following mindful, he will see the changing in dukkha-vedanā, the arising and vanishing of bodily painful feeling. Later, when ñāna-paññā of the meditator is stronger, mental feeling will also be contemplated.


3. Sati contemplates the mind in the mind; the meditator as a matter of fact contemplates at the mind-door, that this mind is not permanent, always changing, one moment receiving objects by the eye, the next moment by the ear, the nose, the tongue, or in the body; or it receives mental objects, or there is reflection, agitation, drowsiness, desire, anger, various doubts.


4. Sati contemplates dhamma in dhamma; contemplating phenomena right there in phenomena, with the ability to realize the arising and vanishing of the good side of nature and the bad side of nature (kilesa). The good side of nature makes the mind give rise to satisfaction, happiness, contentment, whereas the bad side or kilesa, when it has arisen, defiles the mind and makes it hot, worried, annoyed, irritated, offended, uncertain, discouraged, confused..., not quite natural - mental suffering arises. When the meditator has gradually developed sati in contemplating the present object of rūpa-nāma until he is experienced in noting rūpa, vedanā and citta, then the contemplation of dhamma will be easier.


In the very beginning one cannot note the arising of thinking. Later one applies energy all the time; then, little by little, the noting can follow the thinking. But still one cannot note the first moment of thinking; for instance: thinking has already arisen a minute before one knows. But later on, little by little, one knows increasingly quicker, until one is able to know thinking arises and then ceases.


Sometimes one realizes the mind is about to start thinking; sometimes one knows for instance that a mental image originating from past memories appears first and then thinking arises in succession. Being able to contemplate the present life this discloses the vision of the truth that all kilesa arise together with the mind and cease together with the mind. As it is stated in the Satipatthāna Sutta: When there is no kāmarāga (passion) in the mind one knows that there is not; when kāmarāga arises, one knows it arises; when it stays in the mind, one knows that it stays; when kāmarāga disappears from the mind, one knows that kāmarāga disappears; when it disappears owing to a cause one will know that cause.


When sati and ñāna-paññā have reached this level, one will realize the power of sati that noting the arising and vanishing of kilesa-nīvarana is something that can be done; and this is a clear indication that the extinction of kilesa is an activity or performance in agreement with the four ariya-sacca (natural truths); that means: to develop the Path, that is to say sati; to distinguish dukkha, that is to say the 5 rūpa-nāma-kkhandha to release samudaya, that is to say kilesa-tanhā. Nirodha becoming evident means: To see the cessation of kilesa-nīvarana in actual fact.


That means, the meditator need not do anything at all! Do establish sati so well that it knows the present dhamma instantaneously and you will see that all kilesa arise and cease naturally. When you are aware like this, kilesa will be exhausted and go away of their own accord. For kilesa that have strong power on and on will have to arise on and on again for many moments. Just as if we see fire that having flared up vanishes at the same moment; then the fire will not burn any more. But if that fire goes on igniting continuously because it has fuel, then the fire will build up strong power. It is a hard thing to extinguish that fire.


In conclusion we may sum up:


The development of viññāna-kammatthāna (insight meditation) is a practicable activity in order to extinguish the cause of suffering (dukkha), that is kilesa-tanhā, entirely; you must not doubt it! And it aims at putting an end to kilesa once and for all, without having to consider the subject any further such as that one must have a particular method, some special knowledge or learning; this is generating more hesitation and doubt.


At the time of the Buddha, sixteen young men the disciples of the Brahmin Bavari were asked by their teacher to put questions to the Buddha. One of the sixteen, Nanda, posed the question: "They say that there are muni (sages) in this world. How is this? By muni do they mean persons of learning or persons working for their existence?"


The Supreme Teacher answered: "Wise men in this world don't say one is a muni because of seeing, because of hearing, or because of learning. I say that anyone who can extricate himself from the heap of kilesa and does not meet kilesa any more, who has no worry and no desire, such a person is called muni."


Nanda continued to ask: "There are ascetics and brahmins who speak of purity by seeing, by hearing, by a prescribed mode of living and ritual, and by any other methods. Has anyone of those ascetics and brahmins who follow strictly such methods which they believe to be the means of purification, ever gone beyond birth and old age?"


The Supreme Teacher answered: 'Those ascetics and brahmins, even if they keep strictly to their observances, I say, cannot go beyond birth and old age."


Nanda asked further: "Oh, Lord, if you claim that these people cannot cross over and this should be so, then who in the worlds of devas and men has gone beyond birth and old age?"


The Supreme Teacher declared: "I don't say that these ascetics and brahmins are, all of them, overwhelmed by birth and old age. But I say that any ascetic or brahmin in this world who abandons objects that he has seen, heard, or known and discards all prescribed modes of living, all rituals and the manifold methods, contemplates tanhā as an offence. He cuts it all off to be a person who does not meet the āsava (pollution) any more. Such an ascetic or Brahmin has gone beyond birth and old age."


Thus we see, the Supreme Teacher emphasized the abandonment of āsavakilesa-tanhā as a most urgent matter to be considered first. So you must practise until you attain to final success.

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