Archive for March, 2008

Buddhist Christian?

Buddhist Channel had an article today about the topic of Buddhist Christians or Christian Buddhists having to practice in secrecy :-). Well, they do not fear angry Buddhists but somehow their own Christian fellow-believers. Why is that? Monotheistic wrath? 😉

What Meadow will explain to her critics — at least the ones who do her the courtesy of letting her respond — is that there’s a distinction between Buddhism as religion and Buddhism as a meditation technique. One is a belief system; she doesn’t teach that. The other, the one she focuses on, is a process.

I wonder what that “Buddhist belief system” could be? 🙂 Maybe this
or this:

Do good, Avoid evil, purify your mind. This is the teaching of the Buddhas. Dhp. 183

…coming closer. How about this definition of “a Buddhist belief system” (Brahmajala Sutta, DN 1.):

But of these views, monks, the Tathagata knows that arriving at such views, holding such views, believing such views, trusting such views will have such and such a consequence in terms of rebirth in the hereafter. This and much more the Tathagata is able to see, for he knows as it really is the coming to be and the passing away of sense experience, the satisfaction of sense experience and the way of escape from sense experience.


And because he does not cling to what he sees he is detached and he experiences for himself the peace of utter freedom.

These are advanced things, monks, matters that are deep, difficult to see, difficult to grasp, subtle, leading one who follows to tranquility and the sublime; things not to be arrived at by mere logic and reasoning, comprehensible only by the wise. These, monks, are the things the Tathagata teaches, having seen them for himself. These are the things which should be spoken of by one when he speaks in praise of the Tathagata.

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…i would encourage you to read this post first. Otherwise you will have a hard time understanding what is said next:

Now, interpreting “iti pajanati” directly as a way to meditate, even Buddha’s 4 noble truth become themself a theme of meditation a meditation instruction. You may have wondered how the first sermon was enough for Kondanya to become a stream enterer…well, maybe he did not have a metaphysical realization on hearing the 4 noble truths, but simply “exercised” them, as the Buddha suggested:

“Yehi keci bhikkhave samaṇā vā brāhmaṇā vā idaṃ dukkhaṃ’nti nappajānanti” (cattāri
saccāni vitthārena. ) … Appajānanto vividhe saṅkhāre abhisaṅkharoti, ayaṃ nissando. {Petakop. PTS, p.63}

This passage is from the Petakopadesa, but that’s where it simply occured to me while reading the prominent pali passage found elsewhere in the canon. Look at this:

“idaṃ dukkhaṃ’nti nappajānanti” – they do not see it as: “this is suffering”.

what happened to those who do not see the five pancupadana-kkhandha (groups of grasping – summarizing completely our moment to moment experience) as :”this is suffering [note the way this is put! not seeing them as suffering but see them so: “this is suffering”. This is much more precise on how to go about seeing them as suffering. The metaphysical explanation is literally a meditation instruction.]

Well, they who did not see it in the manner described they

vividhe saṅkhāre abhisaṅkharoti

create various (mental) creations…thoughts, intentions and finally deeds – leading to kamma and thus new fuel for additional lives consisting of myriads of life-moments. That makes sense. The method of noting arising and falling sense impressions and in its wake form (sense impression), feeling, perception, thoughts and ultimately consciousness will lead to a cessation in additional sankharas being generated by grasping those 5 phenomena.

Then, even more fascinating, now you can see stages of vipassana in the 4 noble truths, like this:

1. noble truth: See the suffering as “this is suffering” noting/seeing/knowing each of the 5 groups of grasping

2. noble truth: You go through the insight knowledges and realize that tanha or thirst is the root of suffering. You realize this because of the first noble truth or the method of your meditation.

3. noble truth: Finally, you realize nibbana.

4. noble truth: paccavekkhana-ñāna – or the insight knowledge of reviewing takes place. Now the meditator even gets a clear picture of the path he had to take in order to arrive at this experience and insight.

So, do the four noble truths not just list the disease and propose a cure but might they already be the medicine and instruction leaflet? This would make perfect sense in the light of Buddhas own characterization of his teaching as ehipassiko, or “come and see” and not a “come and a series of secret initiations later you will be able to see”

“Tathāgatappavedito dhammavinayo, bhikkhave, vivaṭo virocati, no paṭicchanno”
“O monks, the teaching and guidance proclaimed by the Tathagata shines all openly – not covered up.”

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Or: How can i desire Nibbana if it is supposed to be the end of desires?

Part of mainstream Buddhism and supported by a notion from late Mahayana school of thought is the proposition that you cannot achieve Nibbana if you still long for it. This not only sounds good but also seems very logical if you look at it. This understanding is so mainstream nowadays that from Tibetan to Zen and even in Theravada circles the notion of “desire to attain Nibbana” seems contradictory to Buddha’s own teaching.

We may even come across comments like this:

“How do you extinguish the desire for Nirvana? Simple. Abandon the distinction between Nirvana and Samsara, accept that we all have the Buddha nature (are already Buddha) and return to living everyday life!” {here}

This is not in accordance with the original teachings of the Buddha – it is quite the opposite. Instead of using a make shift raft (the Dhamma) to carry one from the shore of birth, death and suffering to the other side which is the end of desire and suffering one suddenly stops thinking: “What the heck! both sides of the river are just river shores”. So one stops to paddle and the raft drifts aimlessly midstream until the next existence finds us maybe in less fortunate surroundings and the practice of meditation and development of insight seems even further away. (Cmp. Dhp. 182)

So, what do the most ancient scriptures say about this seemingly contradictory statement, that a person could have desire for nibbana and still realize the desirelessness?

Let us quote two prominent sutta passages:

“‘This body comes into being through craving. And yet it is by relying on craving that craving is to be abandoned.’ Thus was it said. And in reference to what was it said? There is the case, sister, where a monk hears, ‘The monk named such-and-such, they say, through the ending of the preparations, has entered & remains in the preparations-free deliverance of the mind & deliverance through wisdom, having known & realized them for himself in this very life.’ The thought occurs to him, ‘I hope that I, too, will — through the ending of all preparations will enter and remain in the preparations-free deliverance of the mind & deliverance through wisdom, having known & realized them for myself in this very life..’ Then, at a later time, he abandons craving, having relied on craving. (So aparena samayena taṇhaṃ nissāya taṇhaṃ pajahati) ‘This body comes into being through craving. And yet it is by relying on craving that craving is to be abandoned.’ Thus was it said. And in reference to this was it said. {AN 4. 159}

And here the second one:

One day a brahmin came to visit the venerable Ananda. He asked the venerable Ananda: “How can you ever overcome desire if you desire for Nibbana?”. Then the venerable Ananda gave a simile: When you, dear brahmin, were at home, did you not think: “I wish to go to the monastery to see the venerable Ananda”. Tell me, what happened to that desire of yours?” – Then the brahmin answered: “Well, that wish of mine was fulfilled once i came to the monastery.” – Then venerable Ananda said: “In the same way someone would desire to achieve Nibbana, but on reaching Nibbana that desire would be fulfilled.” [Thanks to Daniel and Kerstin for pointing to the source, here it is  SN 51,15 ]

The idea that one had to give up even striving for Nibbana was caused probably by a misunderstanding and trying to leap ahead: what is definitely the case for someone very well advanced might make progress unthinkable for someone who has not even started walking the path. Sometimes people are more inclined to think and conceptualize Buddhist philosophy (painting the raft) than to use and apply the Dhamma – thus seeing no results and wishing for the wishless they aim in theory.

It is one thing to practice Vipassana and not to cling to any sense impression including thoughts and concepts and it is another to built philosophical mountains with concepts taken from the concept of how to get to the end of all concepts. You might say: It is the difference between a 10 day Vipassana retreat and a 10 day Buddhology seminar 🙂

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Or: The meaning of samyojana

The Buddha defined four stages during the emancipation from Samsara:

  1. The stream enterer – someone who realized nibbana (magga-phala) through insight meditation for the first time with a reminder of 7 lives left in samsara
  2. The once returner – someone who realized nibbana a second time with a reminder of just one additional life, human or devine
  3. The non-returner – someone who realized nibbana a third time time who will be reborn in a Brahma world from where he will not be reborn again
  4. The Arahant, or holy one, who realized nibbana a forth time who will not be reborn again in samsara at all

All of those four are able to enter phala-samapatti, or the attainment of the fruit – a special meditative absorption which only they are able to enjoy for their minds found a way out of the thirst for each moment, the grasping and holding of fleeting phenomena.

Besides characterizing them in accordance with the amount of lives they will still stay in the cycle of birth and death, Buddha introduces a term to denote certain “fetters” which still bind them to existence. In each of the 4 phases of progress different fetters are cut.

Here is a description of the fetters:

There are 10 fetters tying beings to the wheel of existence, namely:

  • (1) personality-belief (sakkāya-ditthi)
  • (2) sceptical doubt (vicikicchā)
  • (3) clinging to mere rules and ritual (sīlabbata-parāmāsa; s. upādāna)
  • (4) sensuous craving (kāma-rāga)
  • (5) ill-will (vyāpāda)
  • (6) craving for fine-material existence (rūpa-rāga)
  • (7) craving for immaterial existence (arūpa-rāga)
  • (8) conceit (māna)
  • (9) restlessness (uddhacca)
  • (10) ignorance (avijjā)

The first five of these are called ‘lower fetters’ (orambhāgiya-samyojana), as they tie to the sensuous world. The latter 5 are called ‘higher fetters’ (uddhambhāgiya-samyojana), as they tie to the higher worlds, i.e. the fine-material and immaterial world (A.IX.67-68; A.X.13; D.33, etc.).

  • He who is free from 1-3 is a Sotāpanna, or Stream-winner, i.e. one who has entered the stream to Nibbāna, as it were.
  • He who, besides these 3 fetters, has overcome 4 and 5 in their grosser form, is called a Sakadāgāmi, a ‘Once-returner’ (to this sensuous world).
  • He who is fully freed from 1-5 is an Anāgāmī, or ‘Non-returner’ (to the sensuous world).
  • He who is freed from all the 10 fetters is called an Arahat, i.e. a perfectly Holy One. {Buddhist Dictionary}

Why did the Buddha call these obstacles “fetters” or samyojana? What do they have in common with a chain or fetter to justify such a term? Did Buddha name them “fetters” in a

  1. metaphysical sense,
  2. just by accident, or
  3. because of some experience drawn from and related to meditation?

Reason number 3 is much more likely, don’t you think? We know how pragmatic Buddha’s approach to teaching was and in most cases enumerations and terms used reflect a direct comprehensible experience which the Buddha a) was looking to put into a simile and b) name with a very clear and precise term. (With precision not in a materialistic way, but psychological that a person practicing his teachings knowing his language would immediately understand what was meant, cmp. nama-rupa as in name-and-form). Let us try an explanation:

A person walking on the path of vipassana towards the moment of stream entry will overcome personality-believe, doubt and clinging to rituals.

Because of the nature of them being “chains” and “fetters” the meditator, while progressing towards stream entry will – the closer he comes to his goal – feel those 3 fetters becoming stronger and stronger. This is his personal experience which may remind him of a man,  who with one foot chained to a pole, only realizes his yoke once he tries to run away from the pole.

The ego of the puthujjana doing vipassana moving through the insight knowledges gets stronger, bolder, ferocious. Letting go of the “i” gets trickier and trickier. Doubt and scepticism towards, teacher, place, teaching, food, climate, fellow meditators increases. He may be seen developing neurotic behaviors sticking to rituals and outward regiments, missing the one all-important point: Noting/seeing this fetter as well (or, more precisely, that which makes this fetter originate, which will be some kind of sense impression or a series of sense impressions, acting like a trigger to the fetter, blocking the neutral noting through an extra layer of delusion)!

If your foot is chained to a post you might not know it. You might very well believe that you are free. As soon as you try to run away from the pole (not around it – that’s what most people do, in wider and narrower circles) you will feel the tugging on your ankles, you might even feel a pull back towards the pole.

Once the chain/fetter breaks, however, you may even experience that the opposite is true. The sudden release of tension will push you even further from the pole, stumbling you might fall forward, getting back on your feet, maybe even a bit closer to the pole but now free, so that you can move ahead very easily.

Suddenly while moving away joyously from the first pole, experiencing the new found freedom from the first three chains, you sooner or later realize that your other foot is bound to a second pole. This fetter, however, is much longer, thus it was hidden and only now, that the stream enterer moves from his position of newly gained freedom towards the stage of once-return the next fetters will appear and become stronger: lust and hatred.

Eventually he will break them too and the once returner is said to have very much subdued moments of lust and hatred. As if the the second pole is tugged to your ankle with 4 ropes (2 for lust and 2 for hatred) and as a once returner you cut one of each.

Realizing the stage of a non-returner the other two chains of lust and hatred (very refined, thin and long) are broken as well and now, and moving even further away, freed from the first two poles the higher five fetters start to increase and become noticeable. The closer the Anagami comes to the stage of an Arahant, the stronger conceit, delusion, restlessness and craving for subtle forms will get (cmp. AN III, 131 – very nice how Sariputta points this out to the Ven. Anuruddha, then an anagami).

So, fetters are the name for those things especially hard to overcome at certain stages on the path / during practice of insight meditation. Overcome here means to “see” them, be able to “note” them and not to identify with them or to being carried away by them. They are, so to speak, Samsaras way to rear-up before letting you go.

‘‘Nandamānāgataṃ cittaṃ, sūlamāropamānakaṃ;

Tena teneva vajasi, yena sūlaṃ kaliṅgaraṃ. {Thag. 213}

Further readings:


MN 64

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For many, this is a big issue. Some take the position to say, that it cannot be a jhana if the meditator experiences “any” (other) sense impression, than the meditation topic.

Others say, wait a moment, i can clearly experience the 4 jhanas and even distinguish the individual factors which make up each jhana. But i do hear sounds and experience thoughts, albeit in a “background” not bothering my concentration at all.

Between those two “views” sometimes debates take place, where for the most part, group number one cites the Visuddhimagga whereas group number two has such prominent teachers like Ayya Khema and many many students as witnesses of their experience.

Now lets try to solve this mystery 🙂

Kindly have a look at the following chart. You will need some time to study and understand it. For those of you with some vipassana experience it will make more sense than to others. Okay, here we go:

States of Mind

In its daily operation the mind is torn between a barrage / an onslaught of six different sense impressions (pictures, sounds, odors, tastes, feelings and – according to the Buddhist teaching – thoughts).

Usually they come and go very quickly, objects of interest alternating swiftly, weaving and echoing a 3D life – like net of experiences through their fast succession, so that you, reading this text, indeed feel that you sit in a room, look at a screen and think some more or less important things. But, if you were to watch yourself in slow motion, this experience-movie would break down into frames of sense impressions piling up on each other, creating the impression of continuity.

Now, what does this have to do with samatha or serenity meditation and the jhanas? Well, how does the mind operate when it is highly concentrated on just ONE of those sense impressions? Or at least trying to do so.

Because, you can say, that concentration meditation or samatha is a meditator’s effort to bind the mind to just one of those six sense impressions. And here, we don’t mean binding it to one sense faculty, which would be staring at a sunset and taking in numerous changing sights, but really to try to hook the mind on one single object – suppressing the stream and barrage of sense chatter and experiencing joy and bliss by the resulting peacefulness. Let’s have a quick look at this wonderful simile of the Buddha:

“Just as if a person, catching six animals of different ranges, of different habitats, were to bind them with a strong rope. Catching a snake, he would bind it with a strong rope. Catching a crocodile… a bird… a dog… a hyena… a monkey, he would bind it with a strong rope. Binding them all with a strong rope, and tying a knot in the middle, he would set chase to them.

“Then those six animals, of different ranges, of different habitats, would each pull toward its own range & habitat. The snake would pull, thinking, ‘I’ll go into the anthill.’ The crocodile would pull, thinking, ‘I’ll go into the water.’ The bird would pull, thinking, ‘I’ll fly up into the air.’ The dog would pull, thinking, ‘I’ll go into the village.’ The hyena would pull, thinking, ‘I’ll go into the charnel ground.’ The monkey would pull, thinking, ‘I’ll go into the forest.’ And when these six animals became internally exhausted, they would submit, they would surrender, they would come under the sway of whichever among them was the strongest.

“Just as if a person, catching six animals of different ranges, of different habitats, were to bind them with a strong rope. Catching a snake… a monkey, he would bind it with a strong rope. Binding them all with a strong rope, he would tether them to a strong post or stake.

“Then those six animals, of different ranges, of different habitats, would each pull toward its own range & habitat. … The monkey would pull, thinking, ‘I’ll go into the forest.’ And when these six animals became internally exhausted, they would stand, sit, or lie down right there next to the post or stake.{SN 35, 206}

Now of course, contrary to a phala samapatti, this bliss is bought by suppression…but it is a peaceful abiding nevertheless and one which the Buddha encouraged everyone to enjoy and not to fear. In a way, this is the worldly preview of Nibbana which would be an absorption not with suppression but an abiding in utter letting-go(don’t even try to imagine this, because you will probably end up in just racing through tons of different thought-moments while doing so. A better approach is to sit down and do some vipassana-meditation noting each sense impression.)

So, did we answer the questions whether one can hear background noise in the jhanas? Studying the chart we might be able to recognise that both parties are, in fact, right. However the experience on shutting out more or less of the other sense impressions is something individual / concentration and meditation session dependent. As the mind is no robot and knows lots of shades in the strength of its experience the deepness of the jhana depends on the stability of the concentration on the meditation subject (which is one sense impression).

It seems then, that after the mind crosses a certain “threshold” in focusing on one topic only that the jhana factors of piti and sukha, of bliss and happiness start to manifest itself and signs of the first jhana manifest themselves. Knowing how to interpret this with regard to how the mind is torn in all directions by the other sense impressions makes clear, that a deep concentration will be based on ones strength of exclusion.

The experience of sense impressions to be in the background for someone experiencing the jhanas thus is easily explained. The other sense impressions seem to have moved into a background, because his mind is preoccupied for “long” spans of time with just one other impression – his/her meditation topic – which now fills such a dominant position for the meditator’s awareness/attention.

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Have you ever wondered, where the Buddha’s “meditation instructions” are? Why doesn’t he talk about them in the Pali Canon? Or does he? Well, he does… In fact, he cannot get any clearer explaining how exactly your practice of Buddhist meditation would look like. Lets take this passage, for example:

“Samādhiṃ bhikkhave bhāvetha, samāhito bhikkhave bhikkhu rūpaṃ aniccanti pajānāti, evaṃ
passaṃ ariyasāvako parimuccati jātiyāpi

Now, if you read most translations you will probably never come across a translation like this:

“Develop concentration, o monks, a concentrated monk, o monks knows form (thinking): “impermanent”. So seeing, the noble disciple will be freed from birth, etc.

But instead most translators will find this translation too clumsy or too literal. They will translate it for you this way (missing the juicy stuff):

“Develop concentration, o monks, a concentrated monk, o monks knows form as impermanent. So seeing, the noble disciple will be freed from birth, etc.

Some of you might say, that is the same, but the second translation sounds more readable…well, i disagree. Strongly. And here is why: This second translation misses a big point. The first literal translation makes this passage from the Buddha a meditation instruction.

Buddha literally asks the monks to “note”, or “label” any form (saying but more likely thinking) “impermanent”. He even starts the second sentence saying “so seeing”. The second translation makes you immediately wonder: “how do i see it as impermanent”. Whereas, in the first translation, it tells you exactly what to do.

Of course, you need to know how the word “iti” is used in Pali. Whenever in pali someone would talk, say or think something, the word “iti” or shortened “ti” is used to mark the end of the expression. It works like our modern day ” ” and implies something said or thought. Normally translations would translate this with either direct or indirect speech marking the sentence with an apostrophe. If you happen to have this background knowledge even a still closer literal translation would make sense to you:

“Develop concentration, o monks, a concentrated monk, o monks knows form (thinking): “impermanent”. So seeing, the noble disciple will be freed from birth, etc.

However, in cases where the Buddha is talking about a meditation topic, as far as i know, nobody came of the idea to follow through and translate such a passage in the same way! Probably because of limited exposure to Buddhist meditation and practice methods.

(Remember: Vipassana practice with the usage of “labels” was reintroduced into Theravadan practice just recently in the 50s from Burma. Even for samatha practice the only place translations get this right is in Visuddhimagga’s description of the kasinas where even a modern day translator would know to translate “pathavi, pathavi”, i.e. literally. Besides, monks/scholars who translated the majority of Pali texts usually tended to have a more academic interest in Buddhism).

So most translations from the Pali canon where made before this not unimportant detail of Buddhist practice become known.

Another supporting argument for this “unusual” but more literal translation and similar passages is the fact that in the above cited quotation, if the Buddha would really had meant “knows/regards as form” in Pali he would have said it this way:

..rūpaṃ aniccato pajānāti,..

…which would this time literally translate as “perceives/regards/knows form as impermanent” … but, as we saw, this is not what the Buddha said here.

Now, very often, after the Buddha or another monk gives such a direct instruction they would point out to trees, huts and meditation places. “Go, sit down, and practice!”. It really could not get more practical then that!!!

But we, reading those passages, because of this tiny change in our translation (or omission) are looking for the instruction and did not find one, asking ourselves, so “i am supposed to see form, etc. as impermanent, but practically, how do i do it. What do i need to do in terms of taking an action?” – that is really tragic, because the Pali text DID give the practical instruction:

just, when you perceive it, label it, noting: “impermanent”.

Here is a list of other instructions, randomly taken from the texts…they abound with direct instructions to “note”, “label” or acknowledge knowingly:

yaṃ pana tattha avasiṭṭhaṃ hoti taṃ ‘santamidaṃ atthī’ti pajānāti.

‘‘So sukhañce vedanaṃ vedeti, ‘sā aniccā’ti pajānāti, ‘anajjhositā’ti pajānāti, ‘anabhinanditā’ti pajānāti. Dukkhañce vedanaṃ vedeti, ‘sā aniccā’ti pajānāti, ‘anajjhositā’ti pajānāti, ‘anabhinanditā’ti pajānāti. Adukkhamasukhañce vedanaṃ vedeti, ‘sā aniccā’ti pajānāti, ‘anajjhositā’ti pajānāti, ‘anabhinanditā’ti pajānāti.

Dīghaṃ vā assasanto ‘dīghaṃ assasāmī’ti pajānāti.

So upekkhakova samānoupekkhakosmī’ti pajānāti.

So ‘idaṃ dukkha’nti yathābhūtaṃ abbhaññāsiṃ, ‘ayaṃ dukkhasamudayo’ti yathābhūtaṃ abbhaññāsiṃ, ‘ayaṃ dukkhanirodho’ti yathābhūtaṃ abbhaññāsiṃ,

Rūpaṃ vedayitaṃ saññā – viññāṇaṃ yā ceva vetanā
“Neso’hamasmi na me so – attā” iti diṭṭho virajjati.


The suttas are full with this kind of meditation instruction. If you like to look this up for yourself just search for “*ti jānāti” (or similar) with a program like the CST4 in the pali canon. It will return hundreds of results with instructions for samatha as well as vipassana type meditations.

Finally the Buddha often would end his sermon saying:

Yaṃ, bhikkhave, satthārā karaṇīyaṃ sāvakānaṃ hitesinā anukampakena anukampaṃ upādāya, kataṃ vo taṃ mayā. Etāni, bhikkhave, rukkhamūlāni, etāni suññāgārāni; jhāyatha, bhikkhave, mā pamādattha; mā pacchā vippaṭisārino ahuvattha. Ayaṃ vo amhākaṃ anusāsanī’’ti.

Whatever a teacher should do — seeking the welfare of his disciples, out of sympathy for them — that have I done for you. Over there are the roots of trees; over there, empty dwellings. Practice jhana, Ananda. Don’t be heedless. Don’t later fall into regret. This is our message to you all.” {MN 106}

Did we really expect him to “hide” his instructions? Not emphasize them clearly and make them obvious to anyone willing to hear? It seems then, that the “ordinary” listener at Buddhas time could indeed – while listening or after hearing a sermon – apply the teachings and put them into practice right away, without the need to seek guidance from a series of seminars which would iniate him. For, at the time of the Buddha, the meaning of “iti” was clear.

We, on the other hand, had to wait for a Ledi or Mahasi Sayadaw to make use of the commentarial “sallekkhati”-verb (to mark, lable) or alāpeti (to ‘count’)   to explain something hidden in plain sight.


Thanks to the input of Dmytro and others one crucial thing to understand here is that even though “iti” may imply a form of noting it does NOT imply thinking (in that case we would find a word like ‘cinteti’ or ‘vitakketi’ etc.) If you ever participated in a Mahasi/Goenka/Nyanarama style vipassana retreat you would know what is meant by that. “Thinking” would imply random, discursive elaboration…it would imply a continuous identification with “Dhamma thoughts”… no, this is definitely not meant here (and hopefully not misunderstood).

The correct way of using a label/noting would rather resemble a quick, swift and decisive “tagging” of the object which drew our attention in and starts to unfold into a proliferating world. The usage of such a short label like “this is impermanent” or simply “impermanent” is only a means in facilitating our vision. If not stopped by this label (especially on weak concentration grounds) the mind will simply continue to pull you in. So with the help of such a label the mind is stopped in its tracks, can quickly return to its anchor point (like breath) and within this “differential” is able to see what just happens/ed.

An article by the most Venerable Katukurunde Nyanananda goes into detail and explains how the labeling could be refined to support the progressing concentration and awareness of the insight meditator:


Finally a remark on the usage of “iti”…this is from the PED – in bold my highlighting

Iti (ti) (indecl.) [Vedic iti, of pron. base *i, cp. Sk. itthaŋ thus, itthā here, there; Av. ipa so; Lat. ita & item thus. Cp. also P. ettha; lit. “here, there (now), then”] emphatic<->deictic particle “thus“. Occurs in both forms iti & ti, the former in higher style (poetry), the latter more familiar in conversational prose. — I. As deictic adv. “thus, in this way” (Vism 423 iti = evaŋ) pointing to something either just mentioned or about to be mentioned: (a) referring to what precedes Sn 253 (n’eso maman ti iti naŋ vijaññā), 805; It 123 (ito devā. . . taŋ namassanti); Dh 74 (iti bālassa sankappo thus think the — foolish), 286 (iti bālo vicinteti); Vv 7910 (= evaŋ VvA 307); VvA 5. — (b) referring to what follows D i.63 (iti paṭisañcikkhati); A i.205 (id.) — II. As emphatic part. pointing out or marking off a statement either as not one’s own (reported) or as the definite contents of (one’s own or other’s) thoughts [sic!]. On the whole untranslatable (unless written as quotation marks) […that’s why its missing in many translations…the dictionary makes a case for omitting it…], often only setting off a statement as emphatic, where we would either underline the word or phrase in question, or print it in italics, or put it in quot. marks (e. g. bālo ti vuccati Dh 63 = bālo vuccati). — 1. in direct speech (as given by writer or narrator), e. g. sādhu bhante Kassapa lābhataŋ esā janatā dassanāyā ti. Tena hi Sīha tvaŋ yeva Bhagavato ārocehī ti. Evaŋ bhante ti kho Sīho . . . . D i.151. — 2. in indirect speech: (a) as statement of a fact “so it is that” (cp. E. “viz.”, Ger. “und zwar”), mostly untranslated Kh iv. (arahā ti pavuccati); J i.253 (tasmā pesanaka — corā t’ eva vuccanti); iii.51 (tayo sahāyā ahesuŋ makkato sigālo uddo ti); PvA 112 (ankuro pañca — sakaṭasatehi . . . aññataro pi brāhmaṇo pañca — sakaṭasatehī ti dve janā sakata — sahassehi . . . patipannā). — (b) as statement of a thought “like this”, “I think”, so, thus Sn 61 (“sango eso” iti ñatvā knowing “this is defilement”), 253 (“neso maman” ti iti naŋ vijaññā), 783 (“iti’ han” ti), 1094 (etaŋ dīpaŋ anāparaŋNibbānaŋ iti naŋ brūmi I call this N.), 1130 (aparā pāraŋ gaccheyya tasmā “Parāyanaŋ” iti).

This goes to show that the proposed literal usage of “iti” in the context of a meditation instruction is not that far fetched. In fact, it seems as literal as it can get. Granted, it makes more sense if you try it in your meditation. And though in theory it looks strange because of all the books on Buddhism which taught us that the canon has to be “interpreted” before we can use it for meditation – from a pragmatic standpoint it immediately would justify most modern vipassana techniques. In fact they now would look like heirs to the original pali texts…even though these techniques were probably “re-invented” in Burma through following the commentarial overlay…

For other posts on this blog on this topic:

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TheraOr: How to recognize an enlightened being.

Again, this sounds like a Zen story. But it is not. It is from the early days of Buddhist practice when Sri Lanka (in this case) was full of “Living Buddhist Masters”. Enjoy this beautiful and funny story:

Once upon a time king Saddhatissa asked the Sangha: “Venerable Sirs, please name me one Venerable monk who is especially worthy of reference.” Then the monks told him about Thera Kuttatissa the elder monk from Mangana.

Now the king organized a huge procession and traveled the 500 mile long journey to meet and see the Ven. Kuttatissa. As the procession came closer to Mangana the venerable Thera Kuttatissa asked his fellow monks: „What is that noise all about?“ – „The Sangha in the capital, Venerable Sir, told the king, who asked for a monk most worthy of veneration, that you are the one he is looking for.“

Then the monk elder thought: „What is the use for me old monk in the king’s palace?“. So he set up his wooden bed outside under a tree and with his fingers draw letters into the sand.

The king, who in the meantime had arrived in Mangana, asked for Thera Kuttatissa. The other monks pointed towards the resting place of Venerable Kutatissa. When the king went to his resting place under the tree he saw the drawings in the sand and thought: „A holy Arahant, definitely, would have his fingers better under control; so therefore this monk cannot be a holy one“ he turned around and went back to his palace.

Now the other monks asked the Venerable Kuttatissa: “What did you do, Venerable Sir, that the king who came with so much faith suddenly left so disappointed?” – „Brethren, it is not your duty to worry about the faith of the king. Instead, your duty is it to help old monks.“
For those who like to read the original:

Saddhātissamahārājāpi, ‘‘bhante, mayhaṃ vanditabbayuttakaṃ ekaṃ ayyaṃ ācikkhathā’’ti pucchi. Bhikkhū ‘‘maṅgalavāsī kuṭṭatissatthero’’ti āhaṃsu. Rājā mahāparivārena pañcayojanamaggaṃ agamāsi. Thero ‘‘kiṃ saddo eso, āvuso’’ti bhikkhusaṅghaṃ pucchi. ‘‘Rājā, bhante, tumhākaṃ dassanatthāya āgato’’ti. Thero cintesi – ‘‘kiṃ mayhaṃ mahallakakāle rājagehe kamma’’nti divāṭṭhāne mañce nipajjitvā bhūmiyaṃ lekhaṃ likhanto acchi. Rājā ‘‘kahaṃ thero’’ti pucchitvā ‘‘divāṭṭhāne’’ti sutvā tattha gacchanto theraṃ bhūmiyaṃ lekhaṃ likhantaṃ disvā ‘‘khīṇāsavassa nāma hatthakukkuccaṃ natthi, nāyaṃ khīṇāsavo’’ti avanditvāva nivatti. Bhikkhusaṅgho theraṃ āha – ‘‘bhante, evaṃvidhassa saddhassa pasannassa rañño kasmā vippaṭisāraṃ karitthā’’ti. ‘‘Āvuso, rañño pasādarakkhanaṃ na tumhākaṃ bhāro, mahallakattherassa bhāro’’ti

Anguttaranikaya Atthakatha, PTS 2.246

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Frank Snow made his newly developed Chatta Sangayana Tipitaka v.4 very accessible. Especially when it comes to the dictionary. Here you can find a zip archive containing Buddhadatta’s Concise Pali-English and English-Pali dictionary in the correct format for the CST4. Just unzip the file and remove the number at the end of the dictionary file you are going to “activate”. Start the program and it will automatically access the new dictionary.


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Even if you may be familiar with Tipitaka.Org’s online Tipitaka search engine you might not know that this search engine is, indeed, open source software and free to download:


So with a 60MB download you get a web based complete edition of the Chatta Sangayana Pali Tipitaka with a VERY fast search engine.

Here is a picture:

It should look familiar to those of you who have used the search engine hosted at tipitaka.org.

However their server seems to be a bit slow rendering the results – using this engine offline returns results in an instant. On the right column you can enter parts of words (suffix/prefix) and the program will list you all possible words found in the canon which spell similar.

If you click on one of those the middle lower window will show all passages in the pali canon where the word occurs. If you click on “Goto text” in one of those result paragraphs, the middle upper window will show you the entire text this passage was found in.

If you prefer to look up individual books or know the correct spelling of a word but just want to look it up, you would use the left menu.

Now, the only thing missing, would be a hack to integrate the PED. But as this whole thing is open source (yes, you can get the sources as well) this should not be that much of a big deal.

Cons: However, there seems to be a difference between the version accessible at tipitaka.org and the one you can download for free: If you search for a word like “sallakkheti” it does not return any results whereas the tipitaka.org version shows 59 hits. Unfortunately only the top 50 words will be displayed on the word-lookup menu in the right frame and not all links will load the respective text passage (there seems to be a bug if the word occurs just once).

Summary: overall, this simple tool is surprisingly efficient, fast and comprehensive. A big sadhu! and “pin siddha wewa” in the direction of the developers. The only other complete pali canon reading/searching tool right now coming close is Frank Snow’s CST4, IMHO.

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no virtue – no meditation?

Why did the Buddha emphasis, over and over again, the necessity to keep the 5 basic precepts PURE in order to progress in meditation?

Keep them for a couple of days while meditating and you will know!

Nothing helps to sustain, enhance and support the results and the progress of meditation as much as spotless sila, a mind in peace with its own morality/virtue/conscience.If you like to give it a try, do the following:

1.) each morning, take the 5 precepts
2.) each evening, go through the 5 precepts
3.) see if your mind (conscience says “outch” at one of them…you did not keep it properly)
4.) change your meditation topic to “reflection on you own virtue”. How? While sitting repeat “keeping the precepts” … or … “pure virtue” or any such thought related to the 5 sila…keep repeating this thought until you find your mind starts to rest on this “concept”/”feeling” of your purity

5.) Enjoy the results…

Cmp. AN X, 2

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