By Acharn Sanong Katapunyo
(Translated by Brigitte Schrottenbacher)
Try now to concentrate – to calm your mind. Be aware of your body. Know that you are sitting in meditation and in what posture you sit. Know what clothes you wear and what color your clothes have. Try to let go of all thoughts and everything that distracts your mind. Don’t let the mind wander to the outside, stay within your body and mind.
Know you are practicing meditation. Know your face, your nose, eyebrows, eyes, mouth, and head – the hair that grows on your head. Then slowly move your attention down your neck, your spine, your hips, your legs, and feet, soles of your feet, toes and toenails. Then move up again – your legs, lower body, upper body and head. Know all of these. Try to see it too. Know that you are sitting in meditation and that you are calm in body, speech and mind.
Buddha, Dhamma and Sangha arise in the mind. Your heart looks like a lotus bud - know if it beats quickly or slowly. All these things – you know in your mind. Let go of the past - thinking of the past makes the mind sad. Let go of the future – thinking of the future makes the mind restless and hot.
You sit here, trying to calm the mind and keep it in the present. Try to develop calmness of mind with every breath. While breathing in – you know you breathe in, while breathing out - you know you breathe out. Know if your breath is long or short, deep or shallow. Know each breath until the mind is calm.
When you breathe in make a mental note Bud-, when you breathe out note –dho. Concentrate while breathing in on Bud-, while breathing out on –dho. If you can’t see the breath clear, then breathe in deep and breathe out long –until your breath becomes clear. Notice Bud- when you breathe in, -dho when you breathe out. Continue doing this until your mind is calm. Whenever thoughts arise, bring your attention back to Buddho. If you think about the past - note Buddho, if you think about the future – note Buddho. Bud- when you breathe in, -dho when you breathe out. If you see yourself thinking, bring your attention back to your body – know you are meditating, know you breathe in and know you breathe out. Stay with Buddho.
Meditation should make your mindfulness so fast, that you know quickly when thoughts arise. If you do not know your thinking quickly, then the mind goes all over the place – without you noticing it. When you at last become aware of it, then it’s already too late. The mind is restless and it is hard to calm it down. That’s why we have to try to increase our mindfulness. With mindfulness we will be able to know quickly when the mind starts to wander, we can let go of the thoughts and return to Buddho. Whatever arises we exchange it with Buddho and try to keep equanimity, we do not cling to these thoughts and build up more mental formations on them. Grasping at thoughts only increases our unrest.
Try to increase your mindfulness until you know every breath. Sooner or later your mind will calm down. We do not allow the mind to do what it wants to do and therefore we need mindfulness. You have to bring the mind back to the breath again and again. If you don’t do that - the mind will not calm down.
It’s normal that the mind is wandering whenever we try to meditate. It goes to future or past. It’s always active and it seems to be impossible to calm it. Only if you try to let go whenever you see it wandering, will it slowly but surely calm down. Concentration will arise. You have to come back to the breath. Know how the breath is now, know if it is long or short, deep or shallow - and when the mind starts to wander again, let go of thoughts and return to Buddho, Bud- when breathing in and –dho when breathing out.
You have to return to the breath again and again, let go of thoughts and bring your attention back to; breathe in Bud-, breathe out –dho. Know you are meditating and know you watch your breath. Meditation means to bring your attention back to the breath again and again. We start new every moment – until the mind is calmed.
Know if the body feels light or heavy, know if the mind feels light or heavy. Know if you experience happiness or suffering and know if the mind is wandering again. Know if you experience discomfort or pain and return to the body again and again. By practicing like this, you will develop patience and endurance.
Contemplate your body. The hair that grows on your head (kesa), hair that grows all over your body (loma), nails of fingers and toes (naka), teeth (danta) and skin (tacco). Look carefully at the hair growing on your head. Try to see the hair. Know how they look like if you do not brush and wash them, they become greasy and smell bad. Look at the hair growing all over your body, except the palms of your hands and soles of your feet. They have to be cleaned and washed – otherwise dirt and sweat collects on them and the body smells bad.
Look at the nails of your fingers and toes. What do they look like, if you do not cut them and clean them; they grow and dirt collects underneath the nails. So you have to take care of them, cut them and clean them. Now look at your teeth. What happens if you do not brush them several times a day? Pieces of food collect between the teeth and a bad smell comes from your mouth. They will get bad and fall out. You may need to see a dentist and have a painful treatment. Contemplate your skin now. If you do not wash and rub your body, it will get dirty and you will have a bad odor.
Know your body as it really is. If you do that then you will reduce your attachment towards it. Know and see the body, the hair of your head, bodily hair, nails of fingers and toes, teeth, skin, bones, veins, tendons, muscles, the skull, spine, bones of arms, hands and fingers, hip bones, bones of your legs, feet and toes – the whole skeleton. See the body as it really is.
Then separate it into the elements. The extension parts – to the earth element, the cohesive parts - to the water element, temperature - to the fire element, the motion parts - to the wind element and the thoughts go into space. By considering it so you will understand the body as just being elements. Your body, as well as everyone else’s body – inside and outside yourself – it’s all the same.
Wisdom arises if we see things coming into our mind and we can let go of them. If the mind holds on to arising thoughts and builds up more thought-formations on them – this is what we call creating mental formations (Sankhara).
The Buddha taught 40 kinds of meditation techniques leading to concentration meditation (Samatha). Watching the breath is one of them.
Breathe in Bud-, breathe out –dho, knowing the ‘rising’ and ‘falling’ of the abdomen or the in- and out-breath. All these practices are Samatha.
Samatha means concentrating on one object. Through this practice special knowledge arises and some can remember past existences (Uggaha Nimitta). They know their deeds done in past lives. Some see colors, pictures, angels, heaven and hell – even to see the Buddha is Samatha.
If you reach that state of Samatha – the teacher will suggest you to develop Insight meditation (Vipassana). You have to come back to your body and mind. You should contemplate the body, see it as four elements, and see its nature as impermanent (anicca), unsatisfactory (dukkha) and uncontrollable (anatta).
By doing this you will leave the pictures of concentration meditation (Nimitta) behind and insight will arise. Other techniques of Samatha are the anusati meditation – the reflection on the qualities of Buddha (Buddhanusati), Dhamma (Dhammanusati) and Sangha (Sanghanusati).
There are ten practices on the loathsomeness of the body (asubha kammathana), ten kasina meditations – where the practitioner fixes his concentration on the earth-, fire-, water-, air element, on the colors: green, red, yellow, white, blue, on space or consciousness. These objects are used to develop concentration meditation (Samatha).
Asubha kammathana is the contemplation of a corps soon after death, a few days after and when the corps gets bloated and infested with maggots. The contemplation of food when it is on your plate and how it changes when it is in your stomach, this is also asubha kammathana.
Formless absorption (arupa jhana) arises through rapture (piti), joy (sukha) and onepointedness (ekaggata). These can be developed through the practice of metta (loving-kindness), compassion (karuna), sympathetic joy (mudita) and equanimity (upekkha). The mind becomes free from objects – it’s only space – this is what we call arupa jhana. These are the 40 techniques of concentration meditation (Samatha).
Nowadays practitioners use mostly the contemplation of breath (anapanasati). Some use the mantra “Buddho” with it. Others watch the ‘rising’ and ‘falling’ of the abdomen while breathing. There are only a few who use asubha kammathana (contemplation of the loathsomeness of the body).
You meditate to develop peace of mind (Samatha) and Insight (Vipassana). First you develop calmness of mind, then you strengthen your mindfulness and some develop a kasina object – this is still Samatha (concentration meditation). Vipassana is the development of the mindfulness that quickly sees the presently arising object and let’s go of it.
When mindfulness gets strong then the practitioner will be able to see the four foundations of mindfulness (Satipatthana) - body, feelings, mind and Dhamma all the time and in all four postures (sitting, walking, standing and lying down). He can see body, feelings, mind and Dhamma arising and ceasing. He sees mental formations (Sankhara) coming and going. This is Vipassana – insight that understands impermanence (anicca) – this is wisdom. If we sit and see heaven and hell and many other things – this is still Samatha (concentration meditation). Even if you see angels or the Buddha or Nibbana – this is Samatha not Vipassana. Seeing body, feelings, mind and Dhamma -this is vipassana. Seeing oneself – this is Vipassana. In Vipassana the knowledge is the same for everyone. Things arise and cease – be it body, feelings, mind or Dhamma – seeing this is Vipassana nothing else.
Samatha is the calmness of the mind - Vipassana is the knowing of body, feelings, mind and Dhamma. This is the only way to overcome hatred, greed and delusion. Only if you practice yourself, will you be able to know what Samatha is and what is Vipassana.
Concentrate on your breath and on the mantra Buddho, if the mind starts to wander – bring it back to the body. Know the rising and falling of the abdomen and bring the mind back to that object again and again when it starts to wander. Not to allow the mind to wander that is Samatha. The mind calms down and concentration arises, if you do allow the mind to wander then concentration cannot arise. The mind wanders here and there and wisdom doesn’t arise. That’s why you have to stay within yourself and know yourself.
You know yourself, know when pain arises and know if you experience heat, cold, hardness, softness, happiness and suffering. The Buddha taught us to know all of this. And you should see the three characteristics of impermanence, suffering and non-self (anicca, dukkha, anatta) day and night. You have to change your body posture all the time otherwise the body becomes unbearable. If you change the posture – happiness arises and suffering ceases. But it lasts only for a short while and again suffering appears in the new posture.
You suffer from hunger, when you eat you feel happiness arising but it lasts not long and you have to eat again. You can’t stop eating. You go out and feel happy but you can’t go out all the time, sooner or later you have to come back home to sleep again. It is impossible to only experience happiness but the suffering is impermanent too.
Body and mind are always changing. Most of your suffering comes from thinking. It’s difficult to reach concentration without training – you have to train the mind. The mind has the habit to wander here and there. Without the correct training – concentration doesn’t arise. The reason why people can’t control their mind is that they never learned how to let go, they have no refuge for their mind – when they have to face difficulties, they become very unhappy and do not see a way out of their situation. Only if one trains to let go, will he gain control over his mind.
Now that you have this chance to develop your mind - be diligent, try to let go and make “letting go” your habit. That is the work you have to do. Actually it’s not difficult but it is not easy either. It’s difficult to get your mind under control. You have to practice diligently to reach the state of happiness that arises when the mind is calm.
Look at those who experience loss. They can suffer from it for days they fall into a deep sadness and depression because they never learned how to let go. Their mind is occupied with thoughts about their problem and the more they think the more they suffer. That’s because they never learned how to work with their mind. If they had trained how to let go they would not suffer. For some people a depression can last for months or even years. That is so much suffering created by themselves, by their own mind. Those who have not yet experienced something like this do not know how much suffering an uncontrolled mind can bring. Suffering of not getting what one wants – of getting what one doesn’t want, being separate from those you love or being connected to those you don’t like – suffering by day and night. Some can’t sleep anymore. Their problem is in their mind all the time and they can’t get it under control.
Those who meditate train their mind not to cling to things. They train themselves not to cling to suffering but to let go. You have to train in four postures. Do the walking meditation as often as you can, it helps you when you think too much. If you are tired then standing meditation is a good practice. If you feel too tense then do meditation while lying down. If you want to deepen your concentration then just sit and watch the breath (anapanasati). Practicing continuously in these four postures will lead to a calm mind and you will be able to keep the calmness in every posture. In this way you will learn how to control your mind in every situation.
Mindfulness becomes a habit and you will know your posture all the time. The four postures will become the foundation of your daily meditation. The mind will become calm and peaceful. That is the reason why the teacher always emphasizes on walking meditation. Without walking - no wisdom arises. You will cling to the calmness arising from the sitting practice. While doing the walking practice you will learn how to deal with strong emotions. Without walking it will be hard to know the mind because automatically the mind clings to the calmness and rapture that arises while doing sitting meditation. That’s why you should walk more and know the mind while you’re walking. You should know if you think good or bad, know if there is happiness or suffering, if you think about past or future, know all the time what goes on in the mind.
You will learn to concentrate in every posture and the mind will become calm. With this power of mind it can happen that sicknesses like headache or fever heals without the use of medicines. The power of a calm mind is like medicine. This is the powerful energy of the Buddha (Buddhaguna), the Dhamma (Dhammaguna) and the Sangha (Sanghaguna). Their powerful blessing can heal sicknesses and pain and your health will generally increase. The strength of the heart, blood-circulation, and the balance of the elements in the body – all of these will get better through meditation.
Some people wonder how monks and nuns can stay healthy by taking only one meal per day – meditation is the best medicine. Those of you who eat three meals per day – you should be even healthier and stronger. But most of the people have lots of sicknesses and problems. Why is that so? It is because they think too much. The body gets three meals but the mind doesn’t know how to let go. People quarrel, speak badly about others and worry much about their problems. It’s not easy if someone lives a life in this way.
Sicknesses come from the mind – from hatred and anger. Some feel itchy all over their body – this can come from too much thinking. Some are depressed and can’t sleep anymore – that can result in eye diseases. Sickness comes from the mind. If you meditate then the mind opens and becomes fresh – and sicknesses can heal. Here also the walking meditation is very useful. Know whenever and wherever you walk – right step, left step….
If you try to meditate all night long you can learn a lot from this. You will learn to be less attached to food and sleep. You learn renunciation – this is what the Buddha taught. Meditating through the night is renunciation (nekkhamma) and you make a lot of wholesome kamma with it. You develop patience (kanti) and endurance while others sleep.
You have to practice by yourself – no one can do it for you. You have to calm your mind and develop mindfulness. Sometimes you might practice and thoughts like this arise: “I sit and sit and nothing happens, no knowledge arises, I make no progress”. Let go of such thoughts. Don’t allow your mind to be discouraged through such thoughts. Watch your breath and do not believe in your thinking, until the mind is calm again. The teacher wants you to meditate – just go on and the mind will be calm again. Do not believe in such thoughts and continue with your practice – and you will know and see by yourself. If you want too much, then it doesn’t work. You have to let go of expectations and everything will come by itself. This ‘wanting to know’ and ‘wanting to see’ is a hindrance for wisdom to arise.
Not expecting anything but still going on with the practice – that’s how wisdom can arise. Let go, be relaxed and know. Know that you sit, walk, stand, eat or lay down. If you know yourself in every posture then you will gain a clear understanding about your body and you will know your mind and the mind will calm down. Know and see your mind and all doubts will disappear. Know how it feels like to have a calm mind and know that this is Samatha and know what is Vipassana. All doubts will fade away. You will be convinced that the way the Buddha has taught is the right way. This experience is only possible to arise if you practice yourself. If you don’t practice you won’t know this.
If you do not train your mindfulness by sitting, walking, standing, eating and lying down – then you will not know.